Here are a few of the many vegetables that make up an average CSA box.
Processing some arugula. Nathan is the hand model.
One of our now dwindling tomatoes. Rochelle is the hand model.
Mike with basil.
Growing Home had its annual Harvest Fest at Les Brown Memorial Farm. There was music, laughter, and food.
Larry, General Farms Manager, begins the tour with some introductory thoughts.
A sign I painted for designated areas where visitors can take some of our overabundant crops, such as basil, beans, and tomatoes.
Aforementioned laughter (Part-time worker Seth and bartender Shannon).
Aforementioned music (The Giving Tree Band).
Enjoyment of music.
I finally got a camera, and I got to take a few pictures of summer at Les Brown Memorial Farm this past week.
Chickens! When I feed them, I also collect eggs, for which I bring a bucket. Though not directly related to them getting fed, when they see me with the egg-bucket, they swarm me noisily, redolent of Pavlov. When I go in with only a camera, they seem much more relaxed.
This is "Little One," my co-worker Nathan's cat. I came to the farm ten weeks ago, when she was a tiny kitten, and now she's almost full-grown.
"The Melvin" is what my intern friend likes to be called. Having worked in construction before Growing Home, hard work for the rest of us here is a cakewalk for him.
Nathan, full-time farmer on the left, and Rochelle, intern, on the right. Planting in the hoop house on a temperate day is painless enough to lend itself to casual conversation, in which Rochelle, Nathan, and I overindulge.
New interns Anthony and Ben adapt to farm life by dealing with weeds that have been plaguing our asparagus.
My next post will be on Growing Home Harvest Fest, which took place this past Sunday. See you soon!
Enough about vegetables, let's talk about people. Farming is actually the second priority of Growing Home, the first being a stepping stone for difficult-to-employ workers. These workers, called "interns" by Growing Home staff, come to the farm to develop job skills and get some experience for the future. Anyway, I'll share some thoughts and interactions. Today, for example, I was pitchforking potatoes with an intern, Mike, who recently joined Growing Home, and I'm compelled to put in writing what he said. The dialogue, roughly, was as follows.
Me: Mike, was that your girl you were just talking to on the phone?
Mike: Yeah, I'm taking her shopping this weekend!
Me: Oh yeah? That's sweet of you. What are you going to get her?
Mike: Beef ribs.
Though the hilarity of that conversation may not have translated accurately to blog-speak, our whole potato crew dropped their pitchforks in laughter. Needless to say, the interns bring a certain change of pace to this rural farm. Sometimes, though, the change is more serious. While on my left was the jocose Mike, on my right were Precious and Gary, who brought up more real-world conversation. They shared intimate details of jail, family, and tragedy in the same tone as any other talk, which made these details sound like the everyday goings-on of their lives. I wasn't shocked, but I was reminded of this disparity between my life and theirs, as trite as it sounds. I mean, even though many of them live right by me in Hyde Park and we're here doing the exact same work, step by step, together, I still feel like such an outsider because we took such different paths to the same places. Forgive my getting a bit too sentimental for a farming blog, but those are my thoughts for this week. In other news, when I close my eyes at night, I see weeds and/or vegetables, and it doesn't bother me.
It's been a while, and a lot has happened, so let's see what I can recall. The first thing that comes to mind is the cooking I did. Being on a diversified farm allows many culinary opportunities, and having never really cooked anything legitimate in my life, I was excited to try something new. So I tried an easy enough recipe for pasta sauce. I went right outside, had a nice stroll through the field, and picked up fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, and basil. Essentially, I threw all of it in a pan with some olive oil, let it simmer for half a day, and ended up with the best pasta sauce ever (maybe I was just tasting my own achievement). The next event that comes to mind is Saturday's Green City Market. A fellow worker and I woke up at 4 am to prepare the truck and get from rural Illinois to the city for set-up. I meant to just check out the market for an hour or so and get back to my apartment in Hyde Park for some much needed sleep, but the coffee station right next to the Growing Home stand kept me helping out for most of the day. I loved giving people fresh food while snacking on greens and making fun of my co-worker Nathan, and I plan to go again this week. I've been getting used to work-days and the quiet living on the farm, I imagine this lifestyle will be missed when school starts again.
I just finished my first couple of weeks at the Les Brown Memorial Farm in Marseilles, Illinois. Needless to say, it was a drastic change from normal life. Coming from the urban to the rural, one's mind must switch gears before becoming accustomed to the farm environment, but in a different way than you might think. One naturally associates city life with activity and excitement, while associating middle America with something a little, well, slower. For me it was just the opposite. Hanging around the apartment back in Hyde Park made me depressingly sedentary, and I became infinitely more active as soon as I got to Marseilles. The work-day begins at 7:30 a.m. with a daily meeting to discuss what needs to be done. Each staff member or team is assigned a number of tasks to complete, then each reports back to Tracy, our farm manager, to receive further instructions. It's a remarkably great feeling to see the results of your work. Everything we do is very manual, whether it's planting, harvesting, or maintaining various crops. You see a problem, say, a very weedy bed of tomatoes, and when you're done, you see a nice, orderly bunch of tomato plants. You see a bed of green leaves sticking out of the ground that someone has told you are beets, carrots, or garlic, and by the end of the day, you've pulled out of the ground pounds of identifiable food that everyone eats. People underestimate real, physical work that we do with our hands. We at school spend all day watching teachers and screens while sitting in various chairs. We spend hours and hours reading assigned texts. What do we have to show for all that work? You have the number of pages that you've read or the number of problems you've completed, but that is so abstract, as is the whole modern concept of work. In office jobs, you're a tool of an assembly line for which you rarely see the finished product, not to mention your own contribution. There's something therapeutic (excuse my getting a little too romantic here) in producing something tangible and concrete, and there's nothing more tangible than soil and vegetables. Ok, I'll move on to another aspect of the farm. Growing Home, Inc. was able to acquire the land for the Les Brown Memorial Farm for free through the McKinney Act, which allows non-profits to take federal surplus land on the condition that the non-profit works with homeless people. That's where the interns come in. Every Wednesday and Thursday, a group of interns arrives to work with the staff. These interns have had past troubles and have become difficult to employ, so Growing Home gives them a job, some experience, and some skills at the farm. My experience with them so far has been fantastic, for they all help out and bring some extra fun and personality. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I'll have some stories to share from my times with them. Let's see what happens in the 10 weeks I have left!