Farmer John Writes: On Love and Opinions

Harvest Week 2, June 30th – July 6th, 2020

(If you missed it, please check out last week’s issue of Farm News, Is the Weather Your Friend? for important updates about the farm and community site protocols.)

Love on the Farm
I can reflect on love interminably. I used to meet with my friend Shanti every Tuesday for brunch. We planned to choose a different topic to discuss for each brunch. The first topic we chose was love. After a long brunch, we realized we had not covered the topic of love thoroughly enough, so we decided to continue discussing love at our next brunch. We had many subsequent brunches, and for each brunch, we chose always to discuss love. Love is an inexhaustible topic.

Love on a farm might be a little different than love elsewhere, as farm life is in certain ways unique to farm life, but then, we are all prone to all sorts of love.

Love is the theme for this edition of Farm News. I touch today on just a few of the many ways in which the manifold forces of love shape us, cause us, and compel us, especially in the context of a farm.

(For another view on love, check out Farm News, Week 11, 2019:  Farmer John Writes: About Interest.)

Earthly Love
I saw a crew member recently who looked completely different from how she had been looking since she started working for me last season. It was love, I was sure. She had found love, or love had found her. The powers of earth, romance, sweat, and muscles were coursing through her. She seemed more complete, more realized, transformed, as though she had discovered herself while on a fantastic journey to her destiny.

Early Love
As I gazed on this field worker, I thought back to years ago when I was milking cows along with our hired hand, Normie.

I said, “Something happened on the bus today that I don’t understand.”

“What happened?” he asked, as he knelt down to remove a milking machine from a cow’s udder.

“This girl got on the bus, and I suddenly felt very warm everywhere and I think my face got red.”

“What’d she look like?”

“She had a rosy face…and pigtails.”

“I think I know who that was. Did she get on on Middle Manchester Road?”

“Yeah.”

“What you experienced is love,” he said, as he poured milk into the stainless steel bucket. “You fell in love.”

I was nine years old.

the barn where I learned about love in the 50’s

There’s Loving and There’s Being Loved
Back then, we had a horse named Polly. Our neighbors, the Tuttles, loved Polly. I think the Tuttles loved Polly even more than we did, because they often called to ask if they could borrow Polly. It happened so often that we finally said, “why don’t you just keep Polly over at your place, and we’ll call you to get her back when we want to ride her?” Polly went to live with the Tuttles.

The Tuttles had a beagle that came over to our place all the time. He finally just moved in. We named him Lunk. Lunk was Bill Tuttle’s coon dog. Tuttle would come over to take Lunk coon hunting, but as soon as Bill set Lunk loose to tree a coon, Lunk made a beeline for our farm.

So we ended up with Lunk, and the Tuttles ended up with Polly. I suppose it was because the Tuttle kids loved Polly more than we loved her, and Lunk loved us more than he loved the Tuttles.

the family that Lunk loved (that’s me in the upper left)

Sometimes I ask a person, “would you rather love or be loved?”

Garlic, Shareholders, Love and Opinions
For those of you who were shareholders last year, you know we had a tough season, the roughest season in decades, due mostly to flooding. We usually plant our garlic in the last part of October, which we then harvest the following July or early August. At the latest, we plant the garlic in early November. It germinates and then we mulch it with straw to protect it from extreme frosts and then it goes into cold dormancy during the winter. That’s the only way we can get the nice big bulbs of German White Porcelain Garlic we are known for, because it gets planted in the fall and then goes dormant in the winter and then surges back to life in the spring. Garlic might be our most beloved crop.

For 20-some years, we have always managed somehow to get our garlic in the ground on time—well before Thanksgiving. Due to the relentless flooding, we planted our garlic for this summer’s harvest after Christmas–on December 30th. I have been farming here for over 60 years and we have never before done tillage and planting in the month of December. Late last December, we planted 18,000 cloves of garlic into cold, muddy ground. Up until then, the flooding and freezing had been so bad, I was sure we would not get the garlic planted. When late December arrived and we had a winter thaw and we planted the garlic, I was sure that it would not germinate and then go dormant before the ground froze again. I knew that, even if it germinated, it would likely die because we would not be able to mulch it to protect it from the heaving winter frosts.

planting garlic, December 30, 2019

I can think I know things and I can be wrong. I knew we wouldn’t get the garlic in—wrong. I was sure that if we planted the garlic in late December, we would not get a crop—wrong. I was convinced that if we didn’t mulch the garlic against the winter cold, much of it would perish—wrong. My attitude and opinion had nothing to do with the outcome of this garlic crop.

I noticed that I thought my opinions on the fate of the garlic were informed, clever, seasoned, and right. I noticed I had a bit of love for my opinions…they were mine. I had earned them.

The garlic crop looks splendid today.

our garlic crop this June

What caused the outcome of this great-looking garlic crop?  In despair and desolation, I spent a lot of money and effort putting in a garlic crop that I knew would fail. Doing the work, or, as they say in Landmark Educationbeing in possibility, caused the outcomeMy opinions, judgments, moods, and attitudes had nothing to do with the outcome.

My opinions were wrong. The crop didn’t fail.

My love for garlic and for our shareholders was stronger than my love for my opinions.

It’s okay to have wrong opinions. Just don’t let them get in the way of your success.

warmly,
Farmer John

 

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Showing 12 comments
  • Joan W
    Reply

    Farmer John, I love reading your commentaries. This is our 3rd year as guests of your farm. I have 2 certifiably black thumbs so I can’t express our gratitude for the amazing vegetables and herbs you provide for our family. As far as customizing, I was really disappointed when you announced your decision last year. The Harvie platform has worked fine. But I used to really look forward to my surprise box each week. It was such a fun challenge to create meals around my surprise veggies. So, bring it back especially if it makes sense! If someone can’t appreciate your generosity in sharing your hard work, then don’t worry about that person. (that’s my censored version) Many many thanks to you and your crew for nourishing our family!

  • Farmer John
    Reply

    I love how blunt you are–refreshing. Thank you for your comment and thank you for your appreciation of our efforts.

  • Janet Weinberg
    Reply

    Landmark Education! So that explains why I always enjoy your writings and relate to the lingo so well! I too, am a.Graduate of the Curriculum for Living as well as the Communication Courses. So happy to hear that your zeal was direct cause in the matter of the successful garlic crop. I look forward to it and the rest of the season’s bounty. Thanks so very much. This is my favorite time of the year. 🙂

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      Janet, When I took the Landmark Forum, I thought “farming is like Landmark.” Many farmers live and behave as though they have been through Landmark training–in certain ways. When we planted the garlic last December, I felt Landmark was cheering me on.

  • Margaret Pezzella
    Reply

    I too loved the full, surprise boxes. I really felt like I was eating with the season as the season provided. I’ve had a share either my own or split with someone since 1997 and from those boxes I’ve learned to eat a lot of different vegetables. Yes, there’s been waste but that has been part of learning to appreciate every vegetable in the box. Much like farming I’d think as not every crop makes it to the box but you learn from it. At first not every vegetable got eaten, not every vegetable was appreciated but eventually I learned how to prepare and enjoy them because I wanted to respect your efforts by eating them. It took 20 years for me to eat beets! Now I look forward to them! (Those weren’t wasted. I gave them to my mom.) My goal every year is to see how close I can get to 100% consumption of the whole box. In 1997 I was a meat eater and vegetables were a nice addition to a meal for a family of 6. Now vegetables are my primary food and a few shared with family members who might eat an occasional vegetable out of the box (my adult kids come the day the corn arrives). I get pretty close to 100% now (except for the random item that gets hidden under some other thing and turns brown before I see it). I did switch to a box every other week a few years ago as my kids moved out and I couldn’t eat a whole box myself every week (but that may change as I’ve moved from vegetarian to vegan).Now I’m learning to eat parts of vegetables that often get tossed. Sorry so long but my love of AO’s CSA boxes inspired me! I just wanted you to know this long time shareholder appreciates your efforts whatever comes and however you get them to us.

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      Margaret, This is a most interesting account of your relationship to our farm and our vegetables over the years. Much appreciated.

  • Mark Breen
    Reply

    Farmer John, I am grateful for and love that you share the intimacy of your life, the farm, and the people who work the farm.

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      I feel I could write a chapter or so for every day of life on the farm. Many days it seems as busy and as exciting as Manhattan.

  • KATHLEEN LAHIFF
    Reply

    I also love reading the news and reflections of Farmer John. And I liked getting the surprises in the box. However, I see the value in customizing and the ability to swap out. We are getting 2 boxes this week due to being out of town for the first delivery, so it was so helpful to be able to swap out some items for others, as 4 heads of lettuce in one week (for example) would be too much for us.

  • Judith Levy
    Reply

    This is our first summer with your delicious farm bounty! For many years we had a CSA from Farmer Vickie at Genesis Farms. Vickie sold her farm and we found you. The boxes were always a surprise and we were fine with that. She had wonderful veggies and more. Customization is nice but we would be fine without it. We appreciate all your hard work!

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      Thanks for weighing in, Judith, and for joining our farm.

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