Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Observations from the fields, a letter from apprentice Megan

Dear CSA members,

As an apprentice that works the fields of Henry Got Crops CSA, Weaver’s Way’s Awbury Arboretum location, and a small farm at Martin Luther King High School, my job allows me to watch three very different farms grow and change. This CSA’s location is especially dear to me, and I highly value the experience of working to start a brand new farm - and I must tell you, each time I step onto the grounds I see a changed location.

I’d like to encourage you to allow an extra ten minutes the next time you come over to pick up your share, and stroll down to the fields below to check things out.

What you’ll see is a remarkable transformation of a field from an empty green lawn to a space full with vegetable production. You can still see the stages of development: a lightly tilled field with sod trying to take back over, a newly formed raised bed that hasn’t been leveled or shaped yet, a bed ready to be planted in, and finally thriving beds with crops ready for harvest, including perhaps the most beautiful collards I’ve ever had the pleasure of harvesting.

My time spent at Saul has really been dominated by bed preparation, and each day I find more enjoyment in this sometimes tedious work. Most times I’m thinking zen-like thoughts as I rake in compost, testing my balance and momentum as I whiz around a full wheelbarrow,and getting immense pleasure out of planting in one of these soft mounds of earth – coaxing small transplants to root deeply and grow firmly.

Irrigation has been another minor obsession for me at Saul. New fields mean setting up an entire network of irrigation for dry spells and recent plantings. At Saul we use a maze of drip lines which build up pressure and slowly drip drip drip water at every foot of their plastic hoses, so that water reaches the soil directly around the base of the plants, building up moisture for hours. Hooking up irrigation is a nice mind puzzle for the early hours of a day, and now that most of it is installed, I look forward to hastily fixing leaks and checking water pressure as the summer progresses.

But for me, the truly addictive part of farming has always been the never-ending awe of the natural world that working outside nourishes and encourages. Each day that I have the pleasure of growing food for your CSA starts with a bike ride on Forbidden Drive. For the duration of that ride I hear at once the swift water of the Wissahickon and the excited morning chatter of birds. I get caught up quickly dodging potholes and early joggers, and hoping that I won’t be too late. The green of the park is astounding, and each day I am tempted to explore rather than continue up the last strenuous hill, but alas! I find my way onto the fields once again.

And so then I step onto the farm itself, and as I work I see bugs that are so bizarre I can hardly believe they come from Pennsylvania soil, I hear the constantly varying call of a mockingbird, and catch an angry glimpse of a fat groundhog. In the field next to me lumber my friends the cows, who at the end of the day call in their stray friends from the woods in a tone that is distinctly marked by protection and worry. The school’s barns are currently hosts to an array of new baby animals to stare at in amazement. Myself and another apprentice have even recently glimpsed what appears to be a coyote that has taken to hanging around the edge of the wood – too large to be a fox and the size of a medium dog, its mannerisms and appearance seem to be a wild coyote, although I can’t say for certain.

In an attempt to keep this ramble concise and complete, I must also mention my excitement for starting the day tomorrow harvesting your shares. I look forward to the snap of greens as I pull off their leaves to bundle them, and the satisfying pop of turnips and radishes
out of the ground. Delicate herbs are a pleasure to bunch and their rich aromas will lure you into our pickup zone.

Enjoy your vegetables and explore your farm!

Your apprentice,


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