News From the Farm | June 3, 2019

Pancho spreading compost, with hills and clouds in the background –

There’s a Farmer in Everyone –

Five days of every Full Belly work week, a group of lucky Full Belly farmers – mostly the interns, the owners and the families of owners – all get to sit down for a quick midday meal that is prepared in advance by one of the interns.  For these lunches, there can be 14 people plus kids, and even a few unplanned guests, that pour through the kitchen door at noon, looking for something to eat.  Cooking for that many people can be intimidating no matter what, but when you only have a few hours to get everything ready and your cooking experience is limited, it can be a tall order.

Eating what we grow is part of the job description not just for interns, but for the rest of us as well. Because we sell what we grow, we have a great excuse for cooking and eating our own produce pretty much to the exclusion of produce that is grown anywhere else.  How do the purple carrots taste different from the orange carrots?  How do you cook one of the pizza balls?  Why do the new potatoes look scuffed up?  And which of the potato varieties is the very best for gnocchi?  Before long these are questions that every intern can answer without hesitating.

I think of farmers as polymaths — at least, that is the expression of farming at Full Belly.  The farm is a beautiful and complex blend of modern and ancient technologies working in harmony. To pull that off, we have plant whisperers, diesel mechanics and computer technicians working side by side.  There have been interns who have arrived here with previous life experience of predictable days and a sense of security about the world… water runs when you turn on the tap and you call the plumber when things break.  But once here, one observes that the farmers are called upon to embrace skills and activities as diverse as managing large groups of people, stewarding a business through choppy waters, and midwifing lambs and piglets.  Erratic schedules and unpredictable challenges abound, creating resilience and flexibility on good days, and basically a sense of chaos and confusion on bad days.

In terms of the bad days, I was recently reminded of a bad cooking day.  The chef was that intern that we all remember, who dropped a lamb and broke its leg, who almost got arrested for some reason while driving to market, who was likable but lost, and who certainly had not done much cooking.  His experiment was pasta served with a sauce of strawberries and torn up kale with the rubber bands from the bunched kale still in the sauce. Pulling the rubber bands out of the sauce was actually the least of the problems with that meal, but on that day, a few people quietly found something else to eat.  On the other hand, most of the cooking days have great results, and that’s why the crowds return, lunch after lunch!

In terms of skills that you need to be a successful farmer, I count cooking high on the list — anyway, that’s the way it rolls here. My hope is that all of us have more opportunities to cook simple meals with fresh produce and while we’re all at it, we can think of cooking as a way to awaken the farmer in ourselves.  What I see of our interns and the diversity of activities taking place here, leads me to say that “There’s a farmer in everyone,” if only given the opportunity to thrive.

—Judith Redmond

This photo shows a tractor moving through our garlic and lifting it for easier harvest.  Lauren is inspecting the bulbs.  We have gone through the field and pulled the garlic out of the ground to windrow it.  It is now curing in the field.