Hard work

I actually worked today.

Yes, I actually work every day that I’m at the farm. But a lot of it’s the same kind of work, almost all day every day these days: Squat, kneel, or bend at the hip to scan and choose bright fruits and vegetables to harvest; chop, pull up, or twist off said produce and bunch, rip off leaves, feel for soft spots, or fill hands with as many little prizes as possible; fill crate or tote or bucket with the bounty, hoist it against my hips, and carry it to the cart or truck; set up tables or wash tubs to sort, bunch, bathe, or spray; carry full totes to the coolers. Apart from the glory of the still-alive produce I get to admire, taste, and smell all day, my physical work is essentially squatting a lot, lifting and moving around heavy oversized boxes, and levering my torso up and down, up and down all day.

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Agriculture in the news

NPR has been pumping out agriculture-related news recently, which is exciting not only because agriculture gets a lot less press than most other topics, but also because this batch is generally more encouraging than I would've anticipated!  Read on...

Oregon berry growers using a new technology (lasers!) to ward off flocks of destructive birds.

A terminally ill former landscaper won a landmark court case against Monsanto, the agrichemical giant and maker of the ubiquitous herbicide glyphosate (aka Roundup).

Dairy farmers have mixed reactions to new tariffs, which could hurt their bottom line.

And how the Milk with Dignity program in Vermont is raising quality of life for many dairy farm workers.

There was also a great local news story on friends Rosie and Adam's Little Wings Farm and the challenges and opportunities for young farmers.

 

A trip afield

A trip afield

We took our annual youth farmer field trip on Friday-- the first time I've been around to join in.  Jen finds a different farm to visit most years, as it's a difficult time for farmers to give up an entire morning for a tour.  A couple years ago the crew went to Open Oak Farm in Sweet Home, where Adaptive Seeds operates its breeding programs.  This year, we drove to Cottage Grove to tour Branch Road Farm with owner Andy, as well as FOOD for Lane County's Grassroots Garden in Eugene.

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Market zone, part four

Market zone, part four

We got the stand up and running in parts one and two, delivered restaurant orders and picked up CSA totes in part three, and I'm back at the farm.  Out of market zone for just a couple hours.  This week after eating my lunch in the shade, I find the group of interns and Americorps volunteers pulling up the last of the garlic and shallots in the third field.  They look hot and tired, but are in good spirits, and seem excited to take a break for a field walk.  This window on Thursday afternoons is often the best time to do a class or workshop, when we've gotten a lot done for the week and can take a break to dive in to a farming topic.

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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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Transforming the food system in the cilantro bed

We got to talking. Over cutting salad mix, about families and efficiency.  Over sorting carrots, about Sloppy Joe's and imperfect produce.  We got to talking about all kinds of things on our feed walk in the afternoon: timing of flame weeding, pruning and grafting tomatoes, the farm's weed "seed bank."  I often have trouble fully listening and conversing when I'm working with my hands-- I tend to focus on the carrots.  Over bunching cilantro way out in the corner of the farm, though, one conversation pulled me deep in.

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A fragile organism

A fragile organism

Though I fiercely hate to admit it, I'm a fragile organism.

I woke up feeling strong on Saturday.  Got myself ready for the day, ate some food, jetted off to get to the farm around 7:30am.  I was ready to tackle anything, and I did.  I harvested totes of kale, chard, collards, and cilantro while Ted and the farm stand managers set up the market.  As the youth crew arrived, I was finishing up my bunches and bringing them to the stand, going back to the field to harvest more broccoli for the display.  I started feeling nauseous, cringing whenever I put any attention on my gut.  So I focused on harvest instead: bending up and down, cutting, counting, and carrying totes.  There was enough to distract me.

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Potato holiday

Potato holiday

In lieu of wearing tacky green shamrocks and drinking too much Guiness today, we planted potatoes.  I was pretty determined to make it happen, actually.  Yesterday Ted passed off a long work list for the next week while he's on vacation, and I have free reign to plan and play each day as I see fit.  Sowing our first round of potatoes in the greenhouse was already overdue, so today seemed like the day to plug in some spuds.

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Japanese exchange... and a start to herbs

Japanese exchange... and a start to herbs

A group of young Japanese students came to volunteer at the farm this afternoon.  I usually give groups an introduction to our programs and FOOD for Lane County before leading them on a tour of the site.  Today, as I started to explain the mission of our program, I caught myself and backed up a bit to some key terms we use: hunger, food insecurity, and poverty are most central to understanding why we exist.  As I explained food insecurity and hunger to the students, their faces turned blank.  

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Garden education partners

Chances are, there's at least one or two like-minded organizations in your city or town-- whether it's a network like this, a single project connecting kids to gardens, or a local school that's trying to revive and maintain an old abandoned garden.  There are so many ways to support this push toward nature- and garden-based education, so many avenues to awaken people's minds and hearts to the pure delight of seeing seeds sprout and grow and produce roots, leaves, stalks, buds and fruit that we can EAT.  I invite you to look into it, try it out, make some new friends in farmy places.  

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Book review: Food Fight by McKay Jenkins

Book review: Food Fight by McKay Jenkins

When groups come to volunteer on the farm, I welcome them, give them a broad overview of what we do, and take them for a guided tour around the fields.  When I start explaining our agricultural practices, which I'll touch on here much more as the season progresses, someone from the group often raises their hand and asks a seemingly simple question: "Do you guys use GMOs?"

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