It was beautiful, the rain ceasing for a brief few hours to allow Erik and Hannah Morris to be wed under a brilliant sky of broken clouds and sunshine. A simple set-up, a tattered, multi-colored, vine laden brick wall that contrasted the sodden earth, bright straw paths leading the way to straw bale seating. I think everyone doubted a little their aspirations to get married at a first year, work in progress, urban farm just a few feet away from a highly trafficked railroad, perhaps justifiably so. But I think the couple saw something beautiful about a baby garden, perhaps a parallel to a baby marriage, where there’s room, and an absolute need to grow into the full aspirations of what’s to come. I hope in a few years they’ll take these same pictures wandering on foot paths through groves of fruit trees, talking about how crazy they were to get married in a field with only flecks of green against the brown. And they can say how far this little field has come, as well as how far they’ve come in their new journey together. All the best to the Morris’, so happy they could share their great day here.
So we had our first veggie distribution last Saturday (surprise!). We hadn’t planned on starting for another week or so but our friend Matt Callo over at Pond Gap Elementary Community Garden called me with an abundance of produce and no one to buy it (check it out: http://www.wbir.com/story/news/local/2014/05/12/new-community-garden-provides-food-for-school/9025221/). It was a simple spread, radish, romaine and snap peas, but the perfect salad combo for a May afternoon. It was wonderful to meet shareholders I had only communicated with through email or telephone and to show folks what their investment has done so far in reconciling a blighted piece of property. Soon we will be harvesting from our own grounds (although some of the snap peas distributed Saturday came from Abbey Fields!) and that will be fun and tremendous, but it’s always great to partner with our area agrarians as well.
And now for what soil remediation really means…
But to preface, (circle of honesty):
I am a “fad farmer”. A farmer who came to terms with what would be vocationally satisfying after spending loads of money on an unrelated and painfully vague degree at a liberal arts university (thanks anyway, dad). A farmer not birthed into this line of work, but instead persuaded by the host of documentaries, books and inspiring projects happening around the world. Wendell Berry was the last straw.
And of course fad farming allows you the pedestal in which to boast about why this is the best way to spend our lives. There’s the nutritional aspects, of course, and then you get deeper into the communal and neighborly aspects of it all, and then perhaps finish it off with the idea of holistic living, focusing on the healing and fulfilling aspects of nature and a hard days work. Terrifically convincing, and delightfully true. My hopes getting into this project rest heavily on the ideas of renewing a place, taking what was vacant and neglected and turning it into something vibrant and alive.
However, the nitty-gritty reality of this poetry means working with nutrient deficient, rocky, weed filled soils that have no considerations of your timeline. Soil remediation really means that you will acquire bloody knuckles when you plant lettuce and blistered palms when you till your tomato beds. It means you’ll wipe away a tear of joy when you see your stalky sunflower babies bursting through the soil, and kick the dust around your turnip tops, knowing full and well they’re not supposed to be that color.
It means wine on rainy days and too much coffee on all the others.
And while it’s frustrating, I stop short of cursing the ground. Because I know it’s all part of it, this amazing responsibility of taking care of something. Even if a vegetable is not harvested from our fields this year (which I promise shareholders, there will be!), the effort is not lost, our input of plants and amendments rolling over into the next season; our winter cover crop taking it all up to prepare a more fertile piece of ground in the years to come. I have learned an amazing amount this Spring, and am so thankful for all the support from The Abbey Fields shareholders, volunteers and well-wishers.
And to expand the scope of faces you’re familiar with at the farm, I’m going to take each blog post to feature one of our work shares. These people are amazing. I have called on them in a moments notice to work in the sleet to cover plants, asked them to cut down barbed wire laden fencing, to plant thousands of onions, and to mulch a sixth of an acre using only a wheelbarrow and a pitch fork. They show up without me asking, and encourage me by staying until the job is done.
So, Meet John
A former professor in Wakefield NC, wrote me a letter in the beginning wanting to work and learn so that he might be able to start a garden for the poor in his own community. John is technically no longer a “work share” because he decided to buy his, wanting to give his working share status to another who wanted the opportunity, but he still puts in more hours than anyone, sometimes myself included. He’s witty, chivalrous, and dependable, and I’m thankful for his wisdom and care for others.
We’ll have distribution again tomorrow evening, this time to meet the second batch of shareholders. I believe we’ll be able to harvest our lettuce, kale and chard, and I hope to get some strawberries to the table from Care of the Earth CSA (apologies to our Saturday share folks who weren’t able to partake in this delightful treat). Stay tuned for the next community work day.