Field Notes Volume 3 | Number 5 June 29th, 2015
More Than a Vegetable
by Sky Harman
Lately we have been busy, but thatÂ’s nothing new, even in winter. Some people say thatÂ’s the life of a farmer, summerÂ’s on and winters off, but in reality we donÂ’t take much time at all, although the pace in winter is a bit less hectic and less physically demanding. Usually when we go to the grocery store, or even the farmerÂ’s market, we forget what goes into the vegetables that we see. We think of them like any other product, something that pops out at the end of an assembly line, which looks as much like our platonic vision of whatever the particular vegetable should appear.
Farming is not like that. Even the big farms can only aspire to the platonic ideal of perfect products and maximum efficiency. There is a lot that goes into growing what you eat and there tends to be a lot that is wasted in the process of getting it to market (although our goal is zero waste through the use of animals and composting). At Harmony Farm, we aspire to higher ideals than the average farm because we feel that growing food is not only a physical act, but a healthful, and even spiritual one, and doing this has a greater cost both in terms of time and money.
The differences between organically produced veggies and conventional ones can be great or small, typically with theÂ organic stuff that we purchase in the stores, the difference isnÂ’t so great- the farmer replaces one set of fertilizer, insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, etc. for another; but at Harmony Farm, we do things differently.
The longer I do this the more of a dollars and cents kind of guy I am, but unfortunately for the bottom line, I canÂ’t let go of the nagging feeling that farming is not just business but a calling, and a service that is greater than the sum of our efforts. What this means is that we not only consider the economics. effeciency and safety of our growing practices, but also the environmental, healthful, moral and even spiritual cost of what we do.
What that means is that those carrots that you will eat this week arenÂ’t just carrots, they are a dream, a vision. They are a belief that what we eat doesnÂ’t just feed our bodies, but reaches into our souls, and that when we grow them we have a responsibility to care for them as such, to consider more than just regulation and the bank, because the bottom line of farming is much deeper than that.
Having this relationship with what we grow and the land from which it comes is a challenge. It takes time, money, care, and a great deal of consideration. All of this flies inÂ the face of the pressures of modern economics, where quantity and efficiency are paramount, and quality is only considered as a factor in purchasing decisions and shelf life. It takes years to make it work right and in the mean time we have greater levels of loss and/or a reduction in quality because of it. We strive for the optimum balance between the two, but this is a balancing act- one that changes with the conditions that we face.
In practical terms this means that we only use organically approved products in and on our fields, but we go beyond this too. Some things that are organically approved, may still have harmful consequences for the applicator and/or the eater, and we will not use a product that we do not understand, and only use the ones that we are confident are safe. What this has led me to is a biological approach, where much of our pest and disease management is a positive approach where we attempt to boost the plants immune systems rather than fight whatever is out there. In doing this we not only increase the nutrients our plants get, but also increase the nutrients that you eat too. This can usually be seen in darker colors in our vegetables and usually more flavor too!
Enjoy!- Farmer Sky
Salad Mix – Enjoy!
Greens – Either Lacinato, Curly Kale, or Swiss Chard
Carrots- A strong flavored, robust variety, which would be great roasted.
Beets – A great multicolored variety. The tops are huge, and would be great sauteed.
Basil- First of the season! Do not refrigerate! Store in a cool place in your kitchen in water (like a flower)