August 18, 2008
As my time is nearing its end here at Featherstone, I want to give you a taste of the order of my daily experience here. (As my jobs and days vary greatly on the farm, this is a typical 'CSA Day.')
7:00 am - My ever-reliable cell phone alarm goes off just as I start to hear the neighbor's rooster crow. I climb down from my loft and trek to the common house to find breakfast.
7:30 - Nosh on granola and yogurt back at the cabin while I attempt to find clean (enough) clothes for the day.
8:00 - I stumble over a few Spanish phrases while passing the Gasca brothers on my way to the office to check in with Jack or Mary, to check email, and gain a sense of what's going on for the day.
9:00 - Quite unpredictable. Ranges from counting out 176 bags for the dill in our grande shares, to washing cucumbers in our conveyer-belt style cleaner, to picking tomatoes, to taking pictures of farm workers and vegetables.
10:00 - See above. But add to the mix - a little more heat, a little more stress, and a few hunger-growls from the stomach. Things are really starting to happen in the fields and the CSA packing area. The phone is already ringing off the hook, but 3 times out of 5 it's our farm mechanic. Wholesale sales are happening and our truck drivers are getting prepared to leave. Chances of getting office work done at this time in the morning are slim to none.
11:00 - My favorite time of day. The farm work mentality is nearly 70% to its peak. Progress is able to be seen as everybody is really into their respective morning jobs. It seems as though everybody gives this hour an extra push because lunch is in sight and they either want to get to it faster or be able to enjoy it better knowing a job was done well.
12:00 - Even though we've been munching on deformed vegetables all morning, we can't get up to the Common House for lunch fast enough. Recently, the tomato sandwich (yes- with mayonnaise, salt, and pepper) has been the hit at lunch. But our group's taste in food is very diverse - all the way from Spam to Cheerios to beet pie to black beans straight from the can to raw carrots. This time on Wednesdays is an extremely special time for us farm workers as Gen Nagel, a chef from Winona, comes to cook all morning for our noon lunch, with Featherstone vegetables. She really is the reason that most of us have come to stop eating breakfast on Wednesday mornings, in anticipation and preparation for her spread!
1:00 Back at it. Either finishing morning jobs or starting new ones (like weighing out 150 4-pound bags of heirloom tomatoes.) On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays this is the time that we finish the last jobs before we start the CSA pack-out line, what we wait for all day. Last-minute field picking usually occurs about this time, when we realize we may not have enough basil or tomatoes picked to fill all the boxes. It is nice to get out in the sunshine after having eaten a nourishing meal. It's especially pleasant working out in the field with the Gascas, listening to them joke with one another, and them giving us an opportunity to practice our Spanish.
2:00 Now we seriously consider starting the operation of filling your CSA box. The day's work (harvesting, washing, weighing, packing) has been for this solely for this moment. We bring things out from the cooler and put in their respective positions for a Featherstone employee to put in your box. We are at our peak right now for box contents, and it takes about 6 people to pack the boxes, with most people managing two different vegetables. Today I was in charge of placing bok choi and peppers in the box. Yesterday, it was putting 7 ears (for full shares) and 4 ears (for half shares) of corn in each box.
3:00 We are elbow deep in packing boxes. Everybody's attention is focused on the next box coming down the line, counting out their produce, and putting in its place which was determined before the pack-out began. During this time I always imagine what kind of delicious meals our members will be making this week, via Featherstone produce. It gets me excited and to start thinking about what I'll make myself for supper.
4:00 The pack line is usually done (on a good day) and we clean up the packing area, put the remainder of the produce in the cooler, wrap our head around what we have leftover to work with the next day, and of course, get a box of our own produce to take home!
5:00 On an extremely scheduled (but highly unusual) day, everybody is done. But, as the nature of farming is highly unpredictable, most often the case is that one of the jobs mentioned above didn't go as smoothly or quickly as anticipated, which sets everything back. So sometimes we aren't done packing boxes quite yet. But by this time we've forgotten about the clock. We've got bigger things to think about than time- like tomatoes.
There you are- farming, it's not glamorous. But it's real, honest work. I still think it's one of the most intimate ways one can effect another individual- that is, feeding them. Giving them material things that they will ingest in their bodies to live on - you can't touch somebody more directly than that.
Posted by Melinda at 1:10 PM