The first cold nights were such a relief. Turn the fan on, get some cold air into the cellar. Wake up to light frosts, knowing the carrots and the kale would be all the sweeter for them. Harvest something active first thing, get bodies moving. This was a week to get crops out of the ground. We started with all the “minor roots,” the radishes and turnips and rutabagas, 5500 lbs. Then we moved on to celeriac on Thursday. And all the while, we were checking Friday night’s weather. 17 degrees, it said. Then 11 degrees. Then 7. Okay. Which crops still in the ground would want to come out? All of them? Breathe. Try asking a different way: which are the most hardy? We knew that Parsnips, hardy roots that can even be left overwinter til spring, would be fine. Carrots likely too, as long as the ground doesn’t freeze. And Brussel Sprouts can tolerate pretty low temps, we think they’ll make it. Okay, so which would be most obviously damaged? Celery, celeriac, cabbage. We counted up the pounds and started calling for some extra help.
One reality that blew in swift and cold with the weather this week, is that indeed this growing season is nearing an end. After countless hours of preparation and planning. After hiring our crew, and then welcoming them, orienting them, training them, and working with them. After plowing, bed making, seeding, planting, cultivating, and harvesting. After it rained and rained, dried out, and rained again. And after bringing in the fruits of our labors during these past three months of fall harvest. It is now truly coming to an end.
And where does this all leave us? What is the story that we will tell ourselves about this season? What are the lasting images and memories that we will keep once the last bucket is emptied and stacked on the harvest shed wall? We probably won't know for sure for a while, but here's a first draft...
One main theme of this season will be the varied pace. We hit the spring spinach right and harvested hundreds and hundreds of pounds, it just kept growing because June never got too hot. But then, the music slowed. We waded through standing water in the fields to plant the sweet potatoes. Harvests of many “hot” crops were delayed because of the cold and wet spring and summer. We waited for our summer squash, corn, tomatoes, eggplants, and melons. And then the tempo changed again. The fall broccoli was planted in a cool July, and grew happily in perfect brassica chill, experiencing none of the usual summer stress-out these fall crops face. And then the hot and dry early fall pushed these happy plants to full expression. The broccoli and cauliflower came on early and in huge quantities. Harvests took over seemingly all of our work time as the frost held off. We had cauliflower and tomatoes in the share at the same time. Peppers on and on and on. This lingering warmth extended our chance to get the warm-weather storage crops out of the field: the squash and sweet potato harvests were not rushed by cold. And we had to wait to harvest crops into the cellar, keeping the beat with cover crops and garlic planting. Now, suddenly winter is here and it’s a race to the finish line.
What makes us able to “weather” these changes in pace? We know that no matter how many hopes and dreams we may have for our little farm, none would come true without the help of our three apprentices (Rebecca, Sunny and Ellen), who came to work each day from 6am - 5pm from April 'til Thanksgiving. These women formed the backbone of the labor necessary to turn this farm from thoughts to 250,000 lbs of delicious, nutritious vegetables. They are highly motivated and deeply invested in what we’re doing. If the roller coaster is taking me for a ride, all I have to remember to do is explain to them what the pressures are and they are right there with us: do we need to get all these lettuces planted in the pouring rain? “No problem! We can do that!” And do it again tomorrow.
Beyond that core, our Weeder Crew, our Harvest Crew (Sydney, Oli, Sam, Morgan, Lukas), our Fall Harvest Crew (Will Thornton, Nolan, and returning volunteer Kate), make the magic happen with daily and seasonal contributions. We give thanks for them.
And for our long-term staff: Abbe, who keeps the books and administration and keeps our lives organized, with patience and skill. And Ken who fixes things when they are broken. For the support and pinch-hitting this season (and in life) from my partner, former apprentice Will Van Heuvelen. In learning to how to play my part in managing this great cacophony, I feel lucky to be on a team with Karen and Dan, who always make their jobs look far easier than they are. We couldn’t ask for better mentors, farmers and managers. The constancy of their availability, advice and oversight makes it possible for all of us to mostly stay ahead of the crazy curves - hopefully putting our resources and attention in the just the right places for them to do the most good. And when we fall behind, it’s Dan and Karen who adeptly notice and correct our course.
Standing behind all of this day-to-day labor, learning and leadership is you (and the you’s that have come before you). The farm is 31 years old, three + decades of food and partnership. We feel the long-standing commitment to our work here in small daily ways and in big ones. This vision of mutual support, continuity and deep nourishment wouldn’t be possible without you. You share the vision and you co-create it with us, investing your time and money in this farm and this community. This is what security looks like.
Friday when we put out the phone calls, they were answered. Friends, fellow farmers, students and a whole ultimate team came to help get the food in with freezing hands and lots of cheering. 3000 lbs of celeriac. 8000 lbs of cabbage. 500 celery and even 1000 lbs of carrots. We pushed it all down to the cellar as the temperature plummeted. Once more, because of all the support we have, we were resilient enough to do the job.
Who would want more than a job to do? And who would want more than to have the tools and support to to the job that they want to do? And for that, we give the deepest thanks of all. For letting us do this work one more year. To do something for all of us. To grow our food. And take care of our land. Just so that we will perhaps be able to do it all again next year. We will go to bed now. Take a big nap. And when we awake, we hope to find you here again. Ready to help us write this story, one more time.
We hope you enjoy the harvest.
Zoe (for Dan, Karen, Abbe, Rebecca, Sunny and Ellen)