Edith* comes back from the field rosy-cheeked and smiling. "We're done with transplanting, so we're going to start pulling potatoes." She looks enlivened despite the sweat and heat. Summer hasn't bogged her down yet. She heads off with Gerome to lead the rest of the field crew in the potato patch.
"I can go help them if you need," Madison says as they're leaving. She's stuck up front, processing produce for market tomorrow with a small crew. I know she prefers the field, and she's being a good sport about volunteering for whatever we need. She busts out salad mix washing by herself, sprays rounds of beets, sorts onions-- and all the while she's imagining her hands in the soil, across from someone else crouched low to the ground, sun on her back, the satisfaction of seeing a freshly transplanted bed. She stays in processing, because we need her up front today.
Meanwhile, Abby is off in the CSA shed with Jen all day, bagging salad mix and cleaning up leftover produce. She takes her break and lunch late because we forget that she's over there, forget to call her off. But she seems happy in the shade and ease of preparing CSA totes-- unlike Madison, she'd be dreaming of cleaning onions if she were stuck out in the field hoeing or planting.
Every youth farmer is so different.
Casey asks to switch from the field to harvest processing after lunch, so he ends up peeling green onions for a couple hours. Right off the bat, I see his fingers languishing around each stem as he chats away with Christopher. "Do you want to set a time goal for yourselves to finish those onions?" I ask, trying to gently light a fire under them.
"Oh, you want us to go faster? Just say it!" Casey says with a grin. He explains how he can't really read people's veiled motives, so it's best to just come out and say what I mean with him. Okay, Casey: noted. I think others would balk or take offense at me telling them outright to work faster, but not everyone.
Earlier in the morning, I'm harvesting salad mix and cauliflower with Amir. He's never done either before, so I coach him through it. He picks up the salad mix quickly, working right across from me, playing copy-cat. As we work down the cauliflower bed, I notice that his tote isn't filling up, so I stop and watch him. He's peeling the leaves off, then re-cutting above where the leaves were. I just tell him to cut above the leaves first to save time, and he laughs. "Oh, yeah, that'd be a good idea." Takes it in stride, pops a few more heads into his tote, and keeps up with me on the walk back to the roadway.
Then he's harvesting beets with a couple other people, carrying boxes to the truck for the food bank, out in the field transplanting. I get ten minutes with him today. Only five with Andrea, kneeling to twist the tops off of turnips we're sending to the food bank after she pulls them out of the ground. So I try to make it count, catching up, laughing, commenting back and forth about little farm details.
I can barely keep up with her, she's moving so fast.
*Reminder that I use pseudonyms for youth farmers