Autumn teaser

It rained over the weekend.  Lightly and little, but the ground was wet when I woke up on Monday morning.  We all had different reactions to it this morning, equally confused by the sun's heat beaming down on us after an unusually chilly morning.  Is it coming?  Is summer already passing?  I have a hard time believing that, even when glancing at the extended forecast (sunny upper seventies to low eighties, nights around fifty degrees for the next ten days) that seems remarkably cool for a time of year that usually bakes us.  But the mornings feel crisp, the morning dew has returned, and yellow leaves on the trees are beyond what drought would cause.

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Carrot daze

Carrot daze

It's rare that I get to have my hands in the dirt on a single project for more than a few minutes.  I'm running from one crop to the next, harvesting a dozen or two bunches here and there, checking in on small groups scattered around the farm and coordinating whatever washing and processing needs to happen up front.  I love that rhythm, of never getting stuck in one project too long.  It can also feel frenetic sometimes, and even isolating since my conversations are usually cut short by the next task at hand.  

So on mornings like this, when we're just staff and interns and a short list of long harvests, I sink in.  Literally, in this case. 

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Coming back to the farm

Coming back to the farm

Coming back.  Coming back, after a week in the woods-- a simple distillation of life into basic tasks, immediate surroundings, present sensations-- was originally difficult.  I covered for Ted on Saturday and over the weekend for irrigation, and I wasn't ready to dive back in.  I hadn't slept well yet, I wasn't used to the sunshine and heat, and my mind was still far away, dreaming of a future in which I can awake to birdsong and meadows rather than trainsong and city streets.  Coming back, until I could resettle quietly into my home and routine, felt like a burden.

There's still- always- so much to do.

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New partnership, old tractor

New partnership, old tractor

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.  

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Market zone, part two

Market zone, part two

In continuation of last weeks's Market Zone Part One post....

I beep the horn a few times as I pull past Michael in the red truck.  Two interns have already left to open the driveway at the hospital, and two youth farmers are following behind Michael to meet us there. A basket flies off the truck as I cruise down Game Farm Road, and I look back in the rearview mirror to see Michael pulling over and running out to grab it.  Got my back.  It's in, and we're off again.

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Snippets

Snippets

Experimenting with a new format and combining two days into one post: a first, and a sign that both on- and off-farm lives have been stacked full this week.  There's so much to share.  More prose coming soon :)

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The last day before harvest begins

The last day before harvest begins

There's nothing and everything special about days like these, when the sun finally breaks out in the late afternoon and our backs are waking up for the week and I have no idea what to write about because any single moment could become an entire book if I explored it.  I'm searching to find the most magnificent part to share, but it's all magnificent.  It's all normal and wild, monotonous and exhilarating, tiring and energizing, frustrating and peaceful.  It just is.  And it's all really, really good.

So here.  Here's this most majestic, perfect squash blossom to top off this most sublimely imperfect last day before Harvest Season begins.  

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Hannah

Hannah

It was Hannah's last day.  She's been interning this spring, filling in for one of our season-long interns who had to take sick leave for a couple months.  Most other interns come on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, but Hannah's schedule worked out to be Thursday afternoons, Fridays, and Saturday mornings.  So Fridays- a relatively quiet day with few volunteers, Michael off, and often Ted away half the day or more- have been rare opportunities for me to work directly alongside her on a diverse array of projects.  Today, after several weeks of Friday chaos with the plant sale and Urban Farm volunteers dropping in by the dozens, Hannah and I got one more quiet Friday.  

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Eighteen hands

Eighteen hands

Eighteen hands on the farm.  Holding coffee mugs, slathering sunscreen over bare arms, gesturing and waving in the morning.  Hands to open bolts first thing, and different hands to lock back up at day's end.  Hands to hold ladders, tie knots, write bold black letters on white sticks.  Hands always moving, and eyes watching to keep them moving right.  


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Teaming up with Americorps

Today would be a good day to have a guest writer share their side of the story.  I was in my own world for most of the day, giving an orientation and tour to a new Americorps NCCC group in the morning, leading our last plant sale seeding with a few of them until lunch, and again leading them with potting soil and a couple solo projects later in the day.  I overlapped with Michael, Phil, Sophie, the UO interns, and Kiya and David just for a couple hours in the afternoon for a workshop, but the glances I could steal out into the fields toward the end of the day gave me an idea of how hard they worked out there all day. 

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Waiting over winter

Waiting over winter

So much youth and newness surrounds this time of year.  Buds and blossoms creaking open, shoots breaking through soil, tender baby transplants being tucked into the earth.  It's so easy for me to focus on the novelty and freshness of firsts, and get swept away in the excitement of seeing the first blossom, the first sprout, the first harvest.  Just this afternoon, as the Tuesday crew set out zucchini plants over freshly laid plastic in the new high tunnel, we marveled at the miniature yellow fruit that some of the plants were already producing.

All these things are awe-inspiring, and if I allow myself to stay present and appreciate each one, they're all special and meaningful.  By this point in the season, though, all the cuteness starts to blend together for me.  It's too much to take in.  I get tired of relishing new life.  Yes, the tomato stems are thickening exponentially and the first round of red kale has clearly taken root and started to settle in.  But nothing we've planted this season is anywhere near maturity, or gives off a sense of wear and age.  Nothing is strong yet.

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Pricking out, filling up

Pricking out, filling up

I was yelling and still not quite making myself clear.  No, I wasn't mad, or even agitated.  I was just trying to give instructions under a greenhouse being pummeled by raindrops.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: the rain on plastic is deafening.  I spent the morning with the interns thinning and filling in plant sale trays of brassicas and lettuces.  It's refreshing and fun for me to help develop new skills with these enthused people.  They pick things up quickly, and so far I just check in every now and again to give pointers on efficiency, another eye to completion, and reassurance that they're doing a great job.

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Forming a core crew

Forming a core crew

Overnight, there's been a shift.  The sporadic, hurried days of February are behind us.  In part, it's because my hours increase in March and I'll now be working full time, so I can really start settling into a routine and feel more in tune with all the growth and happenings at the farm.  Equally important is that the season-long interns started today, and Michael Lee came back to work through the season with us.

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The farm works its magic

The farm works its magic

Fifty fraternity members, a few returning volunteers, the first volunteer I've worked with in a wheelchair, a former intern visiting, an unannounced journalism student wanting to take photos of my daily farm life, and only me to guide everyone through our many varied projects.  Amid what could easily devolve into chaos, the Youth Farm worked its magic. 

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The menagerie

Wednesdays in February are unique on the farm, not only because they're when we make huge gains on filling the nursery to the brim, but also because they bring a sudden surge of diverse people to the farm.  We'll spend these next three Wednesdays seeding our entire inventory for the spring plant sale in April, and because it's a cooperative fundraiser for the Youth Farm and Grassroots Garden, volunteers from Grassroots migrate to the farm to help with all the seeding.

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