Finding hope in community
Farming is a lot like falling in love. Its also a lot like falling out of love and breaking up in the most messy and bitter of ways and then falling in love all over again. Knowing when to lean in and when to lean back, when to grip harder and when to let go, are lessons we continue to learn each and every day. As I've mentioned in a recent post, we've had an especially challenging season with labor on our farm. We know we aren't alone--this challenge is one that most agricultural employers struggle with each year, and its especially marked among producers of annual fruits and vegetables because of the seasonal nature of the work. Because our work is so close to our hearts, its difficult not to take it personally when a crew member chooses to leave or fails to show the consideration and respect we thought we were demonstrating to him or her. Its not personal, I know. And that's exactly the problem. We live in a society where a lack of community and genuine connection to and concern for our neighbors is the norm. Jobs are often nothing more than an economic transaction. In fact, few things are more than an economic transaction. We talk to robots on the telephone. We rush through the check-out line at the grocery store. We don't even notice each other.
I think this problem, as much as the problem of sustainability in agriculture, is why the CSA movement came into being. We aren't just trying to practice better ways of farming, we're seeking better ways of living together. Often so difficult to achieve in practice, Community Supported Agriculture represents a vision of how we can relate to and sustain each other better -- with a greater sense of interdependence. CSA farmers envision communities in which growers and eaters know each other and share concern for one another's well-being. We envision communities where young people work hard for a fair wage and a healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine. We envision communities were natural beauty and abundance are harnessed thoughtfully for human thriving. We dream, and we know we are dreamers. Head over heels, we tumble forward, caught somewhere between the enthralling sense of what is possible and the bitter realization that we yearn for the unachievable. Jaded as we think we've become, we fall in love all over again -- with new crops, new crew members, new plans for the future.
Amidst several disappointments, two individuals have recently come into our lives to raise morale and offer hope for the completion of a successful season. Kevin, who is anxiously awaiting the arrival of a baby in less than two weeks, grew up in the Fort Loudon area. He was looking for a new line of work when he saw our ad in the paper and quickly rose to the unfamiliar challenge of harvesting vegetables in July heat. So much so that we just promoted him to assistant farm manager and can't wait to see him learn and grow into this new position on our farm. Its hard to imagine what we'd do without Kevin's great sense of humor and conscientiousness. Next came Jessica, a friend and former intern at nearby Fulton Farm at Wilson College. To say that Jessica is a breath of fresh air is an understatement: her inexhaustible cheer, energy, and sensitivity (not to mention excellent harvesting ability!) is exactly what this pair of farmers needs to make it through the last hot weeks of summer with a shred of our sanity intact. It may be foolish, but our hearts are open wide to these two wonderful people and the possibility of truly farming in community that CSA still inspires.
All you need is love...and someone to help pick the eggplant