This is why I do this work. It’s for the production, of course: the thousands of pounds of potatoes popping out of the ground that will be eaten by all kinds of people with all levels of resources, including wealthy families, unhoused people, and those with nothing but crumbs and an old can of green beans in their pantries. The meticulous attention to quality for sale, cleaning and processing, weeding and row covering, transplanting an entire greenhouse in an hour. I do it for the pride of production and satisfaction of efficiency, the rewarding feeling of physical exhaustion at the end of a long day. But there’s more than that.
As September rolls by and the Youth Farmers finish out their season each fall, disappearing back to school and other jobs for the rainy season, there’s a wildly heart-warming day that reminds me head-on why I love doing this work. It’s not all for the delicious food, or the satisfaction of high quality production, or even the good feelings of giving back to the community at large. It’s not just, despite all my obsession and love, for the life cycle of different crops we grow. At the end of a long summer, just past the peak of harvest season as we slide into winter preparations, I’m reminded of why I keep doing this work by the crew, as we sit facing one another, sharing waves of sincere, heartfelt appreciations for each person.
The distinct personalities and contributions of each crew member become augmented and highlighted, reminding us all that every person has unique gifts and perspectives that shape the group and the year’s work. Someone that wasn’t the fastest worker becomes the best conversationalist, and someone that kept to himself becomes the silent driver of hard, focused work. Ted, Jen, and I choose superlative titles for each youth farmer and present them a certificate and explanation of the award.
The Best Catalyst was the person who miraculously got every project he lead to get done twice as fast with the same level of quality. The Quickest Learner caught on to the minutest of details and retained them without fail throughout the season. The Best Community Builder spread ridiculous, creative ideas throughout the ranks and showed remarkable empathy and inclusivity toward everyone that stepped on the farm. The Most Passionate was brimming with enthusiasm and positivity, and the Most Visionary helped everyone take a step back and see the bigger picture of the farm, the food system, and our broader place in the universe. The Most Comfortable was also the Most Improved, the Most Inclusive was also the Most Detail-Oriented, and the Hardest Worker was also the Most Focused. Best Salesperson, Most Capable of Any Task, Most Inquisitive, Most Positive, and Most Perseverant: they all brought a little something special to the farm this summer.
What touches me most about this day is how openly, eloquently, and genuinely the crew speaks to each other. None of it’s rehearsed or even premeditated (besides those awards), but the mini speeches that enter the circle could easily be well-practiced, edited eulogies for life-long friends. I learn about inside jokes, moments of connection, and subtle dynamics that were built over the season that a supervisor would never get to know about: a conversation while weeding that changed someone’s perspective on politics, words of encouragement that prompted someone to believe in their abilities, friendships that began their first day, and others that will last past this season.
It all sounds really, really cheesy, I know. But to be fair, we do this appreciation circle just after our annual cob oven pizza party, so the cheese was already flowing ;)
And cheesy or not, it’s all more than enough to keep fueling my fire for the next couple months. I can’t think of anything more motivating and humbling than a straw bale couch full of inspired young people that love this farm as much as I do— and aren’t afraid to talk about it.