In the midst of harvesting cratefuls of colorful vegetables buzzing with life, gathering materials to proudly display the bounty at tomorrow's stand- our first real day of harvest for the 2018 market season- I'm struck by a very different kind of energy.
Garbage. Chaos. Detritus. It's everywhere, creeping in under in the benches, behind the sheds, collecting a special kind of dust that only farms can produce. It's in my way, it's attracting flies, it's an eyesore. It's depressing, all those broken supplies, waiting to go to the landfill. It's a wonder they don't drown us, all the random accumulations of stuff. It's exhausting, trying to constantly clean it up, create order out of the chaos of dozens of people who might just be passing through or working here for the whole summer. I get overwhelmed and then infuriated, sensing that everything around me is slowly progressing toward entropy and nobody else seems to care.
Plastic coffee cups at the ends of the fields. Random ribbons of baling twine and sandwich bags littering the floor of the picnic tables. Chunks of splintered PVC pipe intermixed with a mounting pile of leaky hoses by the Pump House. Broken trays. Unclaimed sweatshirts strewn outside the high tunnels, over the straw bales, on the sign-in table. An old lawnmower, a graveyard of wheelbarrow parts, a steamy bag of beets that've been slowly cooking by the cob oven for weeks.
Do I pick up all the things? This can't be all my responsibility. Isn't anyone else is going to clean it up? How long can that bag of beets stand to sit there and rot?!
I spend part of the afternoon cleaning out the Farm Stand to find materials for the market and get it in shape for Saturday. The shed is a microcosm of the pattern of forgotten things around the farm. Cratefuls of strawberries pints, bent and stained, stacked and infested with cobwebs under the farm stand benches. Outdated Farm Fest fliers and boxes of old plastic plant sale labels. A basket of miscellaneous materials for Fill Your Pantry orders from November: a stapler, a mesh bag, a stack of 10 Lb Spaghetti Squash labels. And Oh, my God, the bags! Crumpled and mismatched, smeared with dirt and unusable for market, they get stuffed into another bag- the bag o' bags- and hidden forever with all the other debris in a black plastic garbage bag. Plastic, plastic, plastic, the shame of our times, out of sight but not out of mind.
It all needs to go. In three days, this shed will be adorned with freshly laundered, brightly colored sheets, newly written signs, and crisp glistening produce from the fields. We'll be proud. It will delight and impress our customers, what we can accomplish in a few short months.
I start from the front, making crates of trash, recycling, tool-shed-bound, Ted-will-know-what-to-do-with-it, and market-worthy. The banana boxes go to the box area, the nursery trays go to the tray area, and the plant sale tags get consolidated into one box and slid under the benches for next spring, Boxes of new bags and boxes of new strawberry pints find homes. Sprouting potatoes yet to be planted will live under the benches until we make beds for them. The patina of field dust and potting soil coating the tables finally gets swept away, and it starts to look presentable. I sneeze and curse along the way, and sigh with relief when I finally lock up the shed for the day.
As I'm closing up the rest of the farm, I find a crate labelled "Plant Sale Materials" in the Pump House. It's out of place, like so many things are, down by the tables instead of up on the shelf with the other blue containers. One step closer to entropy. I'd been working around it for the past week, leaning folding tables against it and fishing out sifting screens from underneath it. I stop. Wait a second. I was the one that moved it down there, last week when I was searching for irrigation supplies. I was the one not putting it away this whole time, waiting for someone else to organize this space.
In two seconds, it's back where it belongs. After more than two years contributing to the randomization of materials in space here, I'm finally owning the fact that the buck stops here: with me. Because I'm here every day, and I see it accumulating, and it drives me crazy. But mostly, I realize as I plop that blue crate back in its place after this afternoon of unearthing the detritus, because I've come to know this place as home.
“Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.”
- Gary Snyder in "Turtle Island"