What a way to start a week. Five well-dressed Trillium Community Health Plan representatives are waiting near the road when I pull up at 8:45am. More arrive every minute as we discuss where to set up the canopy, podium, and catered spread. They don't waste any time getting organized and set up for the event we're hosting: a new partnership announcement between Trillium and FOOD for Lane County to provide more fresh produce to local low-income patients. The event seems kind of hyped up, like a public relations stunt, until I hear our board members, executive director, and people from Trillium speak about the programs we're collaborating on. They're providing $120,000 over the next two years to expand our Produce Plus markets around the county, where people can get fresh fruits and veggies at convenient locations, institutionalize the "Screen and Intervene" program where medical providers ask whether patients worry about running out of food-- then provide them with resources to access the food they need. For the Youth Farm, the program means an extra $5,000 for diabetes prevention program participants who receive vouchers to spend exclusively at our farm stands. These are the types of programs that anyone who cares about food insecurity have been dreaming of, that get to the root causes of hunger and the social determinants of health. Finally, the funds to make it all happen are starting to flow.
I listen to the speakers with the interns and youth farmers who are at the farm this morning-- some for a normal day, some to give tours of the farm to all the attendees. Their reactions are genuine, encouraging, inspired. They chat with the attendees, pose for photos and videos as we continue the harvest afterwards, exude more pride than last week in the work we're doing.
And I, as much as I want to schmooze and eat snacks, can't wrench my attention away from the week's to-do list for long. I'm back to washing zucchini, harvesting turnips and fennel with Michael, getting all the CSA harvest under control before we stop again for lunch. Watering the nursery, breaking away to switch up irrigation, walking the fields to get my bearings. Taking out CSA totes to wash later, checking for weeds in various beds, going over the last of the harvest for the day.
We meet after lunch to make a plan for the afternoon. Michael to lead up irrigation projects with Sophie and Phil, Alex and Rebecca to wash produce and totes, Joe's out picking peas and tearing down trellises, and "I really need to get on the tractor, you guys," I joke, "'cause remember, I'm playing Ted this week!" So we break, and before long I'm cruising at a steady .7 mph up and down the final frontier.
It's a mind-numbingly slow pace. So my mind tries to stay busy by formulating a plan for tomorrow, and the next day, and remembering over and over again all the random details I usually don't have to worry about. When to harvest that bolting spinach? How to best utilize that group tomorrow afternoon? Who's going to lead up the tomato trellising, or the transplanting, or the onion weeding? What about taking down the rest of the pea trellises? I reach the end of the field, lift out the tiller, pull a five point turn to get back in line, start rolling and throw the tiller back down. Look behind to make sure it's lining up and going deep enough... How can we orchestrate prepping all these beds for plastic and transplanting? Oh ya, the Surround. Will there be enough beds in this space? What irrigation lines should I turn on before I leave this evening? Am I picking up the truck three days or just two? Do any youth farmers know how to move PVC line and rototill so we can get that last greenhouse ready? Don't forget to harvest the rest of the zucchini outside tomorrow. Oh yeah, the harvest!! And I laugh to myself-- that I could forget about such an all-consuming daily project-- and I let it all go, let my mind rest. Buzzing, shaking, dirt clods flying, inhaling, exhaling, sipping water, straight line, hands on the wheel. It's nice, to let that big, slow-motion tractor have all my attention for a pass or two. It's all there really is, anyway.