News From the Farm | December 7, 2020

2020 Looking Back, Looking Forward

Oh my, the last of the Beets for another year. And what a year it has been. Your Full Belly Farmers have been on this wonderful piece of land since 1984. Each year, as the discoveries continue here, our connection to all of the work and care of the past stewards of this place reminds us that our responsibility as farmers is to love this land and to help life blossom here.

This past year, the Seeds we planted awakened and blessed us with another germination, unfolding the magical expression of their character as a gift from generations of seed keepers. This gift of Seed to us from the past represents an inheritance.  The seeds we use represent generations of careful choosing.  We are thankful for that gift. Farmers take their seeds and match them as best they can with their skills and with the uncertainties created by a cloudy sky, a sweltering day, or a few drops of moisture or rainy torrent. 2020 was a year to be grateful for all of the gifts of our ancestors.

Those 36 years here have been an adventure, representing our best attempt to make a farm that has a small role in building a healthier food economy. That work has built upon our relation to this land and our continuing connection to all of you.  As your farmers, our first task is to create good, safe, and wholesome food while stewarding this land and all of the life that resides here. Your investment in our food helps to fund these two simultaneous goals.  In 2020, CSA membership grew as you all took out your cookbooks and honed your skills as cooks. We are thankful for your choosing our farm and for your support.

There is so much to be humbled by and be excited about as we deepen our relationships with our farm in order to manage the growth of sweet carrots or good melons or perfect and near perfect tomatoes. Every year becomes an adventure associated with the idea of doing this work on this same ground year after year. We are exploring the idea of sustainability and multigenerational stewardship, and building fertility greater than what is harvested and sold. We live on a generous land – it can forgive our missteps and return the love and attention that we give it. We are grateful for that generosity. 

You might think that we would have it wired by now – that there should be no excuse for a crack in a tomato or a less than perfect piece of fruit.  But it is far from a formula with us here. In the practice of Organic Farming, the closer one looks, the more the miracle of soil and plants reveal the millions of years of order in that design. The patterns of diversity and living systems reveal our fundamental limits and potentials. Into the notion of doing no harm, we have the challenges of a month of smoke, or a dry spring, or the caution needed by those who labor here to keep a virus at bay and be safe. We are grateful for the flexibility built into our model, and for our creative and talented crew bringing their skills to the farm each day to labor here. In 2020 we have been blessed and thankful for their commitment to their work here.

I suppose the final Beet of the year then, is one that needs focus on gratitude. To begin each day understanding the ways we are all blessed– even in the smoke of fires; the lockdowns stemming from a foreign virus; the tumult of politically charged speech; the specter of climate change; or the dark reality of racial discrimination and its own deep infection. Even with the fear and din of all of these uncertainties brought home and landing on each of our doorsteps, the acknowledgement of our deep, abiding, and profound concerns isn’t meant to be cavalier, and if it seems that way, I apologize, but a moment of gratitude is a mechanism to cope with all of its weight.

To acknowledge, each morning, a thing for which one might be grateful, to take that deep breath and reflect a moment and listen, gives us an appreciation for the generous earth that harbors us. We can then share that hopeful moment by extending it to another. Gratitude offers a pathway to hope and happiness, and is a doorway to empathy. 2020 is perhaps offering us insights that we might never have had about family, responsibility for one another, social fissures, the food we eat and how we go about our work each day.

We have missed all of the direct connections to you as a result of suspended farm visits, Hoes Down, summer camp and farm events. This has been a year to reflect on how those simple events have enriched us here and to be grateful for our many years of connecting to you, our farm patrons and supporters.

Farm visits and tours used to be quite routine before the pandemic. Above Paul is showing a small group a newly prepared field.

Finally for the last beet of 2020 some thoughts from a website called Dharma Wisdom:

In the Bible the disciple Paul instructs, “In everything give thanks.” What he means is that from your limited perspective it is not possible to know the outcome of any event. What can seem unfortunate at first may turn out to be an unforeseen blessing.

There is a very old Sufi story about a man whose son captured a strong, beautiful, wild horse, and all the neighbors told the man how fortunate he was. The man patiently replied, “We will see.” One day the horse threw the son who broke his leg, and all the neighbors told the man how cursed he was that the son had ever found the horse. Again the man answered, “We will see.” Soon after the son broke his leg, soldiers came to the village and took away all the able-bodied young men, but the son was spared. When the man’s friends told him how lucky the broken leg was, the man would only say, “We will see.” Gratitude for participating in the mystery of life is like this.

The Sufi poet Rumi speaks of the mystery of life coming from God in his poem “The Guest House”: “This being human is a guest house / Every morning a new arrival. / A joy, a depression, a meanness / some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. / Welcome and entertain them all! / Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows / who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture. / Still, treat each guest honorably. / He may be clearing you out for some new delight.” (The Essential Rumi. Coleman Barks, HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.) Gratitude practiced in this manner brings delight, balances out your tendency to focus on the negative, and can even lift a dark mood.

We’d also like to share with you a gatha to chant. This was composed by a Buddhist teacher, Jion Susan Postal.

For all beneficent karma, ever manifested through me, I am grateful.
May this gratitude be expressed through my body, speech, and mind.
With infinite kindness to the past,
Infinite service to the present,
Infinite responsibility to the future.

— Paul Muller