Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
Saturday, April 21st is the Wilkes County Farmers Market AND the downtown Hickory Farmers Market opening day!
Managing a diverse farm is a lot like daily choreography. We begin with the big picture—the general list of tasks that we need to accomplish. This, we create on Sundays. Then each morning we look at the day’s as well as the upcoming temperature, cloud, precipitation, and wind predictions, and pull items from the general list that will make sense to accomplish that day. Then, of course, we plan how those tasks are going to flow most efficiently—which tasks need to precede which tasks, and how many people are needed to accomplish them—who will be doing what simultaneously.
When it goes well, it’s as lovely as a well choreographed dance. It flows impeccably from scene to scene until we’ve come full circle back to the big picture having crossed off many tasks from that list. But, of course, you know about the rapidly changing weather predictions. And there’s always that one awkward movement that didn’t quite appear like it did in your head and throws the whole thing off balance.
It’s a constant occupation. Like a marionette master, you’ve got to pull each string just right and at just the right moment. It’s one of things we really love about this kind of farming. There’s no boredom, no stagnation. You’re always evolving, learning, growing.
The sun and warmth returned to us like an old lover returning from a long voyage, resurrecting the joy and laughter in our hearts. A lover we can’t help but adore, no matter how long she leaves us. Weather can do that to a person, you know: beat you down like a lily in a hail storm and make you question everything, only to return and lift you up like it was nothing. And you can’t even jilt her. She brings with her too much promise.
Irresistible promises like fresh greens, and thriving plants, and crossing things off lists. Yeah, the weather can do that to. See how talented she is? With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of weather suitable for catching up. And with this year’s family nearly all in place here, we’re crossing things off lists.
The feeling of crossing things off lists is almost as cherished as the feel of the sun on our long cold faces. It’s relief, and power all in one: the realization that we can do this!
Eat your colors! Join our harvest share program
I got back from the “Body Pump” workout the other day feeling SO good. I mean my legs barely carried the rest of me out of there and I collapsed in the chair when I got home, but later, after rest, and even the next morning, I felt really good! This is something I know. Not just from reading about how exercise and healthy diet can improve overall feeling of well-being, but from my own personal experience.
Why, then, is it still so incredibly difficult to drag myself out to the gym to do something that makes me feel so good? Am I just that shortsighted that I can’t project out even a single day? When I’m feeling good, I can easily connect the dots in reverse to understand that “Body Pump” made me feel this way, but tomorrow, it’s like I’ve already forgotten. I hem and haw and drag my feet and reach deep for that will power I know I left somewhere.
I know sticking to a healthy diet can feel the same way. That’s a bit easier for organic vegetable farmers, because organic vegetables are what we have on hand all the time. Plus we’re isolated out here on the farm and don’t have a lot processed food “temptations” poking their cute little heads out at us saying “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!” But I can sympathize how hard it can be to eat healthy even though it makes us feel so good!
Let us help you with that! Join our harvest share program and have fresh organic local vegetables and fruit on hand all the time (starting in May). It works a bit like a magazine subscription: you purchase your share now (when we’re purchasing all of our seeds and supplies and paying employees to grow your food) and receive a box of fresh organic in-season produce each week for 20 weeks (beginning in May). With veggies already in your fridge, you’re much more likely to stick to a healthy diet. Learn more here! Contact us with any questions, and sign up here.
Benefits of the Tumbling Shoals Farm Harvest Share (with lots of quotes from “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan):
Benefits to you:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables! (it’s like a pre-paid fitness club membership-if you’ve already paid, you’re more likely to use it, with all those fresh ripe nutritious veggies already purchased and in your fridge, you’re more likely to get more of them into your diet!)
- Eat the freshest organic produce around: “Recently a handful of well-controlled comparisons of crops grown organically and conventionally have found appreciably higher levels of antioxidants, flavanoids, vitamins and other nutrients in several of the organic crops. Of course, after a few days riding cross-country in a truck the nutritional quality of any kind of produce will deteriorate, so ideally you want to look for food that is both organic and local.”
- Improve the diet through diverse, seasonal eating: “[When purchasing locally] you automatically eat food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious…eating in season also tends to diversify your diet-because you can’t buy strawberries or broccoli or potatoes twelve months of the year, you’ll find yourself experimenting with other foods when they come into the market….The CSA box does an even better job of forcing you out of your dietary rut because you’ll find things in your weekly allotment that you would never buy on your own.”
- Planning meals made easier: “What’s for dinner” gets easier when you are eating seasonally because you begin with what’s in your box and build the meal from there. Instead of “what in the world should I make for dinner,” it becomes, “Let’s find a good recipe for squash (or carrots, or broccoli, etc)”
- You support the local food chain and the local economy (it’s like voting with your tongue!). Your support keeps your local farms in business and contributes to the local food security
- Shake the hand that feeds you: “[In the industrial food system] a wall of ignorance intervenes between consumers and producers and that wall fosters a certain carelessness on both sides. Farmers can lose sight of the fact that they’re growing food for actual eaters rather than for middlemen, and consumers can easily forget that growing good food takes care and hard work.”
- Build a food community: attend Tumbling Shoals Farm events and meet others on the ark of local food
Benefits to us:
- We get to know who we’re feeding: “Accountability becomes once again a matter of relationships instead of regulation or labeling or legal liability. Food safety didn’t become a national or global problem until the industrialization of the food chain attenuated the relationships between food producers and eater.”
- Because you’ve purchased your share ahead of the season, we have income right at the time we are purchasing all our seasonal supplies, but don’t yet have another income stream
- Knowing how many families we’re feeding ahead of time makes planning how much of each crop to grow a lot easier!
- Building a food community: We love getting together with other people interested in food and cooking and eating. Let’s eat together!
A wintry mix and cat-on-the-lap kind of day
“The Best Place to Work: The art and science of creating an extraordinary workplace” says I owe it to my employees to get enough exercise and sleep in order to be at my best (I know, sexy book title right? But we ARE trying to be an extraordinary workplace). There is nothing like this past weekend to make good on that promise.
One wintry mix day and a pretty nice sunny day without much work goes a long way toward really being present in relaxation. I haven’t been this rested in quite some time. Just in time for some warm weather.
We’re all ready for some warm weather. It’s more challenging to be the best place to work when the work takes place outside and it’s cold. So I thank mother nature for the break in the cold this week for making our quest to be the best place to work a little easier and for allowing us to catch up on weeks’ worth of planting. All those squats over the next few days will leave me ready for another super relaxing weekend!
A great visionary, organizer, and leader: Tony Kleese (photo credit to Carolina Farm Steward Association)
Some people just stand out. They’re exceptional. We all know someone like this. Their gifts are so many and their vision so pure that the world can barely contain them. Stephen Hawking was one of those people. And for the sustainable agriculture community, so was Tony Kleese. The world let him go this weekend, but his giant legacy will live on.
There likely isn’t an organic farmer in the southeast who hasn’t learned something from Tony, or been enriched by his vision and advocacy. He touched our lives through his organizing and educating and his friendship. He was a pioneer in organic certification, and worked tirelessly to maintain the integrity of the label. Honestly, I’ve been a bit frustrated by the National Organic Standards Board recently, but I can almost hear Tony urging me not to give up on it. His vision for organic agriculture is no small part of the reasons we farm this way. Humble farmers like us wouldn’t exist without the Tonys of the world, and we’re sad to see him leave it. T
he best tribute to this agricultural super hero is to keep farming with integrity and transparency and that’s just what we intend to do.
First harvest day with help since last October!
For weeks now I’ve been slowly getting further and further behind in the yearly schedule. As Jason was absorbed in the building of the heated greenhouse, I was attempting to run the farm solo all the while harvesting and going to market, which we’re not accustomed to doing in the winter. Years ago we vowed not to take on too many winter projects for this very reason, but somehow we failed to acknowledge that two very large projects (winter growing and building a heated greenhouse) are the equivalent of “too many”.
We haven’t panicked though, because we knew that a rescue was on the way. And the super heroes have rushed in to save us this very week. I am overflowing with gratitude for the folks who wish to do this work. Together, in less than an hour, we knocked out a daunting task that has been haunting me for weeks—one that would probably have taken me a week. Phew! Now we just need mother nature to cooperate so we can begin clearing out the way overcrowded greenhouse!
Purple makes life better
I am a lovestruck teenager. Every pop song on the radio is suddenly speaking to me. Or at least this is the impression I’m giving myself. I saw yet another quotation that inspired me: “The pursuit is happiness.” Cue the choir.
This is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi means (I think), at least partially, when he talks about “flow”. It’s an appreciation of the process—of all the little mundane tasks that add up to the big picture—in the pursuit of mastery. Cue the choir.
So I’ve been working toward reckless optimism, and now toward loving the process. What I’ve learned is that this is so much easier when the sun is shining. Sunday and Monday, I found myself loving every little everything about my job—from painting Mallory’s cabin bright purple (because I heard a cute old lady on the radio say that purple makes life better) to spreading stinky feathermeal. “Flow” and “the pursuit is happiness” all made perfect sense. I felt like a language student who suddenly finds themselves speaking the language they’ve been working so hard to learn. It seemed so easy!
Today, when it’s 36 degrees and drizzling, and my fingers are nearly frozen, it suddenly all seems so difficult. What can I say? Heartbreak comes just as easily as love to that teenager. But the sun will come out tomorrow (sorry, I know that’s stuck in your head now—but I couldn’t resist).
I’ve never considered myself an optimist. I always thought I preferred the pessimistic view because then you’re either right or pleasantly surprised. It’s a win-win right? But then I became a farmer. And honestly, you can’t be a farmer without at least a little bit of optimism. I mean, you take this tiny little seed and plant it believing that it will eventually end up a crop and you’ll earn a living. That’s pretty optimistic.
But sometimes pessimism creeps in. When optimism seems like the wrong approach and you start to plan for the worst because you believe that’s the safest path. But Taylor gave me this print last week and I embarked on a whole new path of thinking. One of reckless optimism.
Suddenly I feel free in a way I’ve never felt before. I’ve always aspired to be a realist: to accept things the way they are and not hope for better. But why not hope for better? Why not, indeed. For a long time, I’ve accepted that I’m pretty much average, which is probably not a terrible idea, but why not be optimistic that I can become above average? Why not work toward loftier goals? As Taylor put it, “Choosing to be hopeful and confident, even when it feels reckless or irresponsible to do so, gives you the freedom to see choices where you might otherwise see dead ends.” Well don’t mind if I do try that.