On Saturday, July 6th, at 6:04am, Elias was born peacefully at home. Though he arrived two weeks earlier than expected, everyone is healthy and doing quite well.
He came swiftly, softly, and somewhat unexpected. We had been feverishly preparing, crossing items off of to-do lists, both of things we had accomplished and things we had to accept weren’t going to be done in time, and beginning to coordinate work around the farm and market. Just two hours before he was born we were debating whether or not I should go to market, even. Then, despite our lack of preparation, there he was. And for a day, it didn’t matter the state of the farm, or our lives, we were just so happy he was here. It felt like working, head down, to beat the incoming rain and, when it comes, ready or not (are we ever?), it’s a relief, a welcome moment out of the heat of the day.
Sure, we have sacrificed a lot of comforts and conveniences to work from home, own our own business, and be self-employed. This time of year, the hours are long, the heat unrelenting, the pay is low (if we’re being honest), and every stronghold and shortcoming of our character tested. Repeatedly. I was afraid it would take away from the experience of his birth. But, welcoming a newborn in the midst of the most challenging time of year has reminded us what we have sacrificed for. My paternity leave lasted all of 30 hours until I was back in the field, harvesting and preparing for the next CSA, but at any moment I may step in and hold him for an albeit sweaty, gritty moment.
And I’ve found a little more grace for myself. Little things, newborns, small farms, can be so heavy. One of my favorite Wendell Berry quotes is just as relevant to life as it is to farming…
“There is a kind of idealism that seems to be native to farming. Farmers begin every year with a vision of perfection. And every year, in the course of the seasons and the work, this vision is relentlessly whittled down to a real result–by human frailty and fallibility, by the mortality of creatures, by pests and diseases, by the weather. The crop year is a long struggle, ended invariably not by the desired perfection but by the need to accept something less than perfection as the best that could be done.”
Recently, I posted about a photo on Instagram of wilting cucumber plants with that exact quote. In it, I thought out load about the point at which our idealism and the realities of family farming collide. Where do we draw the line between stewardship of our land and supporting our family? Ecology or economy? A dear friend of ours responded…
Farming is a business of faith and hope and prayer and doubt and patience and gambling and good work (like...life?) I think leaning into the loss and teaching your children about what you value is another way of feeding your family.
You, specifically, are not interested in things (bare with me). It’s more appropriate to think of interest as happening to you (otherwise, you’d just flip your interest switch and get to that thing you’ve been putting off, you know the one). I later realized that what I am intrinsically interested in with regard to farming, what makes me ask questions aloud to no one or keeps me up at night, and what I value are one in the same. We may care about a great number of things, and may do what we can to support those causes, but enacting our values requires significant work. Unfortunately, there is only enough time in the day, so we must make value judgments. Where will I spend what little time I have to make an impact?
For our little farm, I believe it is possible to feed enough of our community without the use of the -cides that agriculture currently depends on (as we still do to a small degree) and make a decent livelihood. I don’t think the question is either-or, but how-when. There are innumerable ways to contribute to an agricultural we are proud of, from better growing practices to feeding the hungry, and being an example of a biological approach to farming is where we feel we can have our greatest impact. That said, man does not live by bread—or veg—alone. Hopefully, our farm will also be the place where our children learn to pursue what they value, whatever that may be. Pursuing our interests and aligning with our values creates meaning in our lives, which—more than just happiness—will support us when we encounter obstacles, fall on hard times, or experience suffering (ourselves or others).
So, to take a couple of steps in that direction, we’ve begun the process for organic certification. Though we don’t agree with all of the rules and regs, it is a step toward something greater. As we think about these things, third-party organizations of farmers are developing criteria for guiding and recognizing truly regenerative farming practices, not just a hashtag. We’re also about to embark on a project to visit some of these regenerative farms and not only bring their knowledge back to our own farm, but to other farmers, as well.
On a lighter note, if you’re able over the next several weeks, we could use a hand staying on top of the weeding and seeding around the farm, partly because I’m stealing time away from the field to be with Elias. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings or evenings are best. Just send us a quick message to RSVP, there will be plenty of food.
CSA Week 11
First, we really appreciate everyone being flexible about the CSA drop last week. To be honest, I’ve not been able to give much thought to what, exactly, will be in the CSA for the upcoming week, but it will be along the lines of…
The second round of squash and zucchini are beginning to produce just in time for our first planting to bite the dust. This round of cucumbers are setting quite a lot of fruit, too, so fingers crossed. The sweet corn, though shoulder deep in weeds, looks like it will bare within the next couple of weeks and we’re talking to a couple fellow farmers about getting melons in the CSA soon.