July 1, 2008

'Beeting' the odds

One update a week – that’s all I’ve been giving you. Sorry, guys. There is far more than one blog’s worth that goes on at the farm to update you on. Recently seeing the fanatic nature of various farmers has stimulated me to become more intense with my own endeavors. Just as farmers (especially organic) try to beat the odds in their farming practices, I am going to try to beat the odds of my being too mentally and physically exhausted and clue you in more often.

But back to the subject of farmers being extreme, I have met a lot of different farmers lately and I’ve concluded one thing: they’re insane. I have a huge amount of respect for them and don’t know how they do it. Farmers, especially organic farmers, are gamblers playing Russian roulette with nature.

I say this only because it takes a rare person to meet the demands and face the challenges that farmers do. It seems as though there are two kinds of people: those who run from challenges, and those who run to challenges. Farmers definitely fall under the latter category. Farmers have got to be operating on a small amount of insanity trying to manage something that is completely out of their control. I have quickly learned that farming is a process of reacting and responding hour-by-hour. Reacting to the weather, reacting to weeds, reacting to bugs, reacting to broken machinery, etc.

If there is one skill that a successful farmer must have, it is the ability to think quickly and on one's toes. This weekend I visited Hoch Orchards with former Featherstone farmer Rhys Williams, in Nodine, MN. The fact that farmers and others that were interested spent two days touring the farm, learning about pest-control, soil nutrition, equipment, and thinning (very technical information) says a lot about the usefulness and demand for that kind of information. (Hard cider was also served at lunch - you can make your own judgment about that one, but it was quite delicious.) This event, doubled with the previous week's scurry of last minute planting at Featherstone, showed me that farmers can only attempt to manage their land, but ultimately things are out of their control, which is why they have to be so intentional about the prevention of problems before they start.

Organic farmers have this especially bad because they don’t have the luxury to use a one-spray-fixes-all solution. Mid-week we found ourselves scrambling to get a bunch of our summer seed planted because rain was in the forecast; the sense of urgency changes each hour. Farmers, I don’t know how they do it. Farming is no 9 to 5 job, they are on all the time. I’ve even known farmers to sleep on a mattress pad on the flatbed of their pickup out in the middle of the field in order to keep the deer away. Their intensity about farming only makes eating fresh, local food all that much enjoyable - because I've seen the mental and physical work that has gone into growing it.

I leave you with a recipe I made up last Friday evening before hanging out with some visitors at the farm.

Quinoa and beet salad

2 bunches of beets and their greens
1 medium sized bunched onion
3 garlic scapes, chopped
1 cup quinoa, cooked
blob of oil
2 tsp butter
salt and pepper
lemon juice

Cut the beet bulbs from the greens. Wash them and steam them by method of choice. Chop up the beet greens, onions, and garlic scapes. Heat 1 2 tsp of butter. Saute scapes and onions, until soft. Put chopped greens into pan and wilt. After the beets are steamed, skin them if you wish, and cut them into bite sizes pieces. Mix (cooked, warm) quinoa with the beets and the beet green mixture. Add oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to your taste.

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