Staying in love

It's the middle of August.  The broccoli is done, for the first time since it came on in June, for about a month.  Spinach has been missing for while, each planting succumbing to premature bolting before we can get anything out of it.  Bok choy seems like a long-ago dream by this point.  Radishes, salad turnips, green onions, cilantro, kale-- all those enthusiastic harbingers of spring harvest season have come and gone.  In their wake we're left with corn, eggplant, and celery.   Red and yellow peppers, finally ripening to fullness in the greenhouses and fields.  Heirloom tomatoes finally glowing in mismatched collections, melons almost ready to burst, Asian pears ripening to yellow, bigger than in years past.

And exhausted as I am by the harvest, blinded to the vividness of each tomato by the sheer abundance of them, I still find myself giddy on a regular basis.  To see a crateful of colorful peppers deposited near the sinks, or an overflowing cartful of strikingly green, fresh corn, or the truck zooming back from the fields with stacks upon stacks of still-green onions ready to cure in the nursery house.  To savor that bitter sweet crunch of a cucumber with lunch, or blast my taste buds with the sweetest of strawberries as I'm walking by the patch, or come home to make a rainbow salad of tomatoes and peppers.  

It sounds so cheesy, and I usually resist to urge to wax poetic about the loveliness of all this fresh food.  The experience of attentively interacting with these plants, consuming them around every corner, sharing them with other people who are also working hard to produce them-- like most sensory endeavors, it can flash by without much fanfare, or it can become infinitely meaningful and beautiful with just a small shift, over and over again throughout the day, of awareness.

These same shifts are true for the people who share time and energy at the farm.  There are the constants: myself, Ted, and Michael.  Season-long interns Alex, Sophie, and Phil are consistent March through October-- essentially the main season.  Same for a few volunteers-- who start coming in February and show up more or less every week, for ten months, for a couple hours at a time to help harvest tomatoes, seed flats of spring broccoli, or transplant lettuce.  It's easier to start taking for granted the fact that Louisa, for example, will show up on a Wednesday morning and give us a boost in harvest than it is to assume a big capable volunteer group will be helping out every week.  Louisa is like lettuce: reliable and seemingly commonplace, yet exquisitely beautiful.  That one awesome group that comes just once a year in September?  More like fennel: exciting and unique, yet short-lived.

Maybe I'm thinking this way more now because, although we function on a farmer's sun-based schedule (full springs, summers, and autumns, with down time in the winter), we also respond and rely on the school schedule.  Our youth crew, I'm starting to palpably feel, is about to dissolve back to school, coming back just for a few Saturdays in September before we say goodbye for the year.  At the same time that their remaining days dwindle, the crew as a whole has finally found its legs.  They're stepping up, speeding up, and feeling confident.  These last few weeks of "youth crew season" (perhaps the Asian pears are the perfect botanical corollary to their prime?) will be no doubt fleeting, no matter what I do.  But maybe, just maybe-- if I work and chat more often by their side, stop more often to make eye contact and share a smile, let my mind rest in their thoughts and jokes and observations instead of my mental lists and problem-solving-- maybe then when I look back on the year this winter, it'll feel like I was really there with them.  Rather than offering a fleeting glance and pre-programmed compliment like it's so easy to give to the vibrant harvests in my haste, there's real attention and love waiting in every interaction with the people that make this farm what it is.