News From the Farm | May 22, 2017

Spring 2017 has created a tempo on the farm where the beat is compressed, the pace faster, steps quicker and details twirl and thump – making the dance that you all might think a waltz seem more like a frenetic, sweaty flamenco. We have been stepping pretty lively; trying to recover from the months of rain that pushed back spring with wet cold soils and then dropped a month of summer-like weather upon us. 

We have been transplanting tomatoes, melons and peppers. Sweet corn, beans, cucumbers, squash, direct seeded melons and watermelons are in and growing. Now comes the hoeing, watering, cultivation, staking and tying tomatoes along with prepping soil for the successions of each of these crops. We do four to five plantings of tomatoes for a harvest that will go from the middle of June until November. Melons are planted every 10 days starting with transplants and going to direct seeding of some 10 different varieties. Upcoming is the fifth planting, with three more to come. 

All summer crops require multiple plantings with the spacing determined by spring temperatures and the projections forward – 90 days – to try to have a continual harvest. An old farm principle is to never grow more that we think that we can sell for a fair price. This requires building on the experience of many seasons, controlling the urge to plant too much, a crew that is preparing fields for upcoming plantings, and some luck with the markets when the crops hit the market.

I would be remiss (and in big trouble) if I didn’t mention all of the flowers that are gracing the farm, the end of winter blooms are making way for the statice, sunflowers, calendula, zinnias, millet, broomcorn, cockscomb – and so many more. The flowers are now one of the most important crops on the farm. Besides being beautiful, they attract pollinators, feed myriads of beneficial insects and soothe the soul of all who visit the farm – as well as those of us who work here. Now if it only weren’t so stressful to have them be so perfect!

Hannah with a beautiful bouquet!

We have a crew here on the farm who operate like a team – there are nearly 90 of us working each day. Our crew is experienced, skilled and wonderful. We are very fortunate that they have chosen to work with us. Many have been working here for more than 15 years, some more than 25 years. The tasks of the farm in a compressed springtime are made easier by the skilled crew who know the many tasks making the succession of crops near seamless.

This past week the Full Belly Kitchen was fully booked. Saturday a wedding for 200; Friday a farm tour and lunch for an East Bay gardening club. Mothers day weekend had “Pizza Friday” for locals (and visitors!), a great farm dinner on Saturday and a Sunday Mothers Day Garden tour that raised funds for local community gardens. For the past month we have had two or more third-grade classes visiting the farm. They fill their days milking the cow, collecting eggs and holding chickens, filling CSA boxes, picking for their dinner and carousing the farm – bringing laughter and enthusiasm to all of the fields. 

We have designed a pretty complex organism here and we aren’t entirely sure of who is in charge, the demands of the farm or us as designers. It becomes clear that we are pretty unique – where the simple diversity of the farm reveals the beauty of life’s myriad of expressions – when the diversity is not there, so much is missed by never being seen – so much is forgotten because the memory of a buzzing life isn’t rekindled. Awareness isn’t simply only an act of the perceiver, awareness is enabled by fostering a design where dimensions that might not be considered or remembered are given a chance to thrive.

We are reminded daily that it is easier to tear something down than build. Agriculturists can make fields sterile and never remember the potential to foster so much more than just a crop. In the same way, a society can watch years of efforts to make institutions that reflect civil society be forgotten by language that bludgeons – by ill conceived Tweets or by the scarcity of experience, where life is valued because time was taken to make a place for diversity. Wendell Berry has said it rather succinctly: “We don’t know what we are doing – because we don’t know what we are undoing.” Sorry I made a leap there, but careful construction needs respect and good design requires solving for a multitude of greater patterns. 

We continue our work here with the respect that a complex nature deserves and the results are often delightful.

— Paul Muller