Farmer John Writes: Buy The Rips?

Harvest Week 5, July 21st – 27th, 2020

A technician came out to the farm recently to work on a broken cooler. His pants were in shreds. “Did you buy them like that?” I asked disconcertingly.

“Nope, I just kept wiping my dirty hands on them till they came unraveled. My daughter buys them that way. I tell her it’s an insult to us working people.”

I thought of farmers’ mud rooms from the past, faded, torn coveralls hanging on hooks over muddy work boots, muscled farmers at the dinner table, hunched over plates of farm fresh food.

Some of the workers show up here in pre-ripped clothes. I wonder if some day they will be ostracized for imitating those who earn their rips, if social media will marginalize them for imitating those whose clothes get ripped while they work—who exhibit authentic rips. It will be labelled cultural appropriation.

“Its purpose,” says Tony Glenville, creative director at London College of Fashion, “might be to do with (faux) authenticity: I think there’s a vague feeling about integrity.”

Faux authenticity. Vague feeling about integrity. Really?

I was an anomaly at Beloit College in the late 60’s, clothes tattered, stained and faded from farm work, oil, and sun. There were 1200 students and I was the only one farming.  At least one professor hated my tattered look, hated that I raised hogs while I was a student. He suggested, “maybe you should study at a state school, not a prestigious college like Beloit.” In another age, the students, too, might have made me into an outsider, a misfit, but at that time, they glorified me. They flocked to my farm. They marveled as they watched me milk. They helped feed the hogs.

Me in the 60’s

Here’s a line I wrote years ago about my time at Beloit: “A young woman stumbled across the clods to my plowing rig in heavy eye shadow, a Saks 5th Avenue dress and six-inch platforms and insisted on plowing.”

I am much more of an administrator and manager today than I am someone who earns rips in the field or in the farm shop. I look down at my unripped pants feeling a bit of remorse. Why do I have a life where I don’t tatter my clothes on the sharp edges of a plow or catch a shirt sleeve on a harvest knife? I feel like the farm version of a suit.

Corn’s Coming Soon
This is the first year we have not irrigated the sweet corn. The rain has come at the perfect time, then the heat, then the rain, then heat, then…A great thing about the corn this year—it’s right outside my office window. I can watch it grow while writing Farm News.

View of the sweet corn from my office

Weather Wrongs
I wonder about the people who do the weather forecasts. Do they evaluate the accuracy of their forecasts? When the forecast says 80% chance of rain, does it actually rain 80% of the time this 80% chance is predicted? I once had a manager here who believed the forecasts of the weather more than the facts of the weather. If the internet said it’s raining in our locale, he would think and say it was raining at the farm, even if it wasn’t raining outside his door.

We recently had a lot of garlic curing that needed to be brought in and a lot of carrots that needed to be lifted before it rained. The weather forecast was for no rain until the afternoon of the next day–0% chance of rain. Great, I thought. I have a huge, hard-working crew. We’ll bring it all in in the morning before it rains. 

The day before at about quitting time, I said to Dulce, my office assistant, “You feel that air? It’s got moisture in it. Coming east sometimes from Lake Michigan, it seems, but moreso from the South, carrying humidity. Doesn’t synch with the forecast. It’s got water in it.” Do the weather forecasters ever even notice how the air feels, I wondered. Do they ever look at the sky? Where do they get their forecasts? Though the forecast said no chance of rain, it rained hard that night—it thundered and lightninged and the rain pounded.

Maybe there is no human doing the weather forecasts; maybe it’s just a bot.

Thank You for Your Many Comments on Farm News
We are getting a lot of feedback on Farm News this season, much more than ever before. Many of the posts are about share customization. Generally, it seems that shareholders are neutral towards customization or opposed to it; of course, there are exceptions. And, of course, most shareholders don’t post—what are their feelings about customization? Or about the season so far in general?

No Farm Field Day This Summer
Due to the restrictions on public gatherings, we will not have a Farm Field Day this summer. Sorry we won’t see you soon—hopefully in the fall.

We Are Most Pleased with our New Home Delivery Program
If you receive home delivery this year, our courteous, trained drivers Zdenek or Diane (usually it’s Zdenek) deliver your share straight from our farm to your door in a refrigerated van. Home delivery is $12 per delivery, which is about how much it costs the farm to do it. If you want to receive home delivery, write Denise at email hidden; JavaScript is required and inquire if your address will qualify to be served on one of our routes.

Mix and Match: a Free Online Recipe Service
Check out Meal Hero at https://about.mealhero.com/.

“We’re working with CSAs like yours to help customers who are unsure how to use the food they receive in their boxes – whether they’re uninspired, intimidated, or at a loss for how to combine new ingredients with what’s already at home.

Meal Hero helps find recipes for all ingredients, whether overplayed, uncommon, or unfamiliar.”

I have not investigated this service, so I am not personally endorsing it, but you might find it useful. (Some might object that it is a service of Kraft/Heinz, but I’m not sure that’s suitable grounds for rejection.) Feel free to post your comments about it.

David Lynch Does Weather, Doesn’t Do Rips
I don’t want to disparage all weather forecasters. David Lynch watches the sky in Los Angeles. Check out David’s weather reports. Also, see how David doesn’t allow rips in his pants.

Warmly,
Farmer John

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Showing 23 comments
  • Robin Baugher
    Reply

    Hi Farmer John,

    I originally signed up for your farm share in part to push me to use edible plants in new ways. I looked forward to being creative with whatever came…and some items were harder to use than others. The experiment took effort and energy, and I didn’t always relish putting in the time or work. However, I found myself using plants in new ways and growing more confident and creative with my cooking.

    Everything worth doing takes effort. The rewards: priceless. Now that I can customize my box, I’ve dropped back to old habits. While my lazy self has enjoyed Harvie and my custom boxes, I prefer the old way where we get what the farm provides.

    I say “sell what you have.” Sell the idea that greater contentment, happiness, and health can be found by learning to use whatever the farm and the weather give us. I would love to see more cooking videos or tips on how to use whatever is in the share. Pictures of delectable dishes made with CSA plants motivate me.

    Farming is life’s metaphor. The farmer rises to meet the conditions he/she is given. Flexibility, adaptability, and resilience are the skills that bring success when “luck favors the prepared.” What better way is there to practice these essential life skills than through our daily effort to feed ourselves?

    Wishing you good weather and success in all you do!

    Robin

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      Such a beautiful, insightful message from you, Robin. My wife read it to me and we both so moved and delighted. Thank you.

  • Jonas
    Reply

    Hi John,

    I just wanted to let you know that I love reading your newsletters. You’re a wonderful writer, and I’m always fascinated to hear the stories behind the great fresh food. Thanks for writing these.

    Also, I happen to run a little weather app called Hello Weather, and I can totally confirm that the forecasts are just an amalgam of various data points gathered and estimated mostly by computers. Different providers run their forecast calculations in unique ways, which is why you can compare forecasts between sources and they might look totally contradictory. The best ones will have a network of sensors in close proximity to where you are, so they’ll pick up on that surprisingly wet air blowing in from the lake, and report it accurately.

    We did a little work to translate all the computery weather data into actual human words, so if you check out the app you might see things like “feels like a sauna” this time of year. I’ll link it here in case you’d like to try it 🙂

    All the best,
    Jonas

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      Jonas, so nice of you to write about your weather app and weather forecasts in general. I am going to start using your more human-centered weather app. If you sometimes don’t get the weather right, at least I’ll know who to forgive.

  • Richard Squibbs
    Reply

    Hi Farmer John (and fellow Lynch fan),

    I’m a new shareholder this year and have been loving the bounty we pick up each week (soupe au pistou tonight made with much of the past week’s delivery!) I happen to like the customization of the shares, even though we’ve checked “Love It,” “Like It,” or “Sometimes” for just about every plant. So while we’re not finicky eaters it *is* nice to be able to customize around the edges without (hopefully) being a pain in the ass. But given how few things we’re not crazy about it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you decided to deep-six the customizing option.

    Many thanks to you and your staff for all your hard work — looking forward to this Tuesday’s delivery with great anticipation!

    R. Squibbs

  • Mark Breen
    Reply

    My wife made this with last week’s cabbage ( https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1013335-spicy-stir-fried-cabbage?smid=ck-recipe-iOS-share). So delicious

    Love the Farm News even on weeks I don’t comment

  • Farmer John
    Reply

    My Finnish wife read your message to me and was not familiar with the term “deep-six,” though she is very familiar with much of the English language, including slang and idioms. I knew what it meant, but not why it meant that, So I looked it up. It’s actually a nautical term, referring to 6 fathoms deep, below which it’s hard to retrieve items: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=deep%20six. Maybe you already know this. Thanks for writing.

  • Rachel
    Reply

    Hi Farmer John
    I love the customization of shares. I know a lot of people are not in favor, but I honestly do not think I would be a shareholder without it. There is produce that I already know I do not like, so I am thankful for the choice. Many people may think that I have not explored enough but I have a lot of cooking experience and I have to disagree. Thank you for the customization and I hope you will continue it in the future.
    Thank you.
    Rachel

    • Tamara
      Reply

      Agreed! I also am thrilled with the customization feature. It takes away the last thing that was somewhat negative about having a share: the guilt of having knobs of kohlrabi or celery root or certain herbs hanging around that I know I will never use. Plus, it’s great to be able to stock up on enough carrots to keep my rabbit-like kids happy.

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Rachel. It is looking like some form of customization will continue to be offered, maybe the one we already offer.

  • KATHLEEN LAHIFF
    Reply

    Farmer John,

    The veggies and herbs have been absolutely delicious. Thanks to you and all of the wonderful farm workers, delivery folks, everyone involved!

  • Paul Fowler
    Reply

    Hi Farmer John,
    I’m a new member and I am loving it so far. I personally am preferring not to customize right now. I like the challenge. In the first box I got a big bag of pea shoots and totally failed in cooking them – the woody stems were inedible. So when they came up again I had a brief moment of thinking that I was going to swap them out and I was like, no, try again. I tried again. And failed again! I hope they are in my next box too. Me vs. pea shoots: round three! I’m not going down without a fight!!!

    Thank you for all your efforts and for your years of rips.

    • Andrea Tentner
      Reply

      I ended up making pesto out of my pea shoots and it turned out well!

      • Lori
        Reply

        Hi Andrea, I struggled with my pea shoots also. I found that they take much pruning to separate the woody stems from the edible parts. I think I ended up having to discard at least 70% of the whole bag that was quite inedible. But the remaining leaves and the non-woody growing tips were absolutely delicious in a simple stir-fry with onions and mushrooms. The pruning part was pretty time consuming – I did it while on a long phone chat with an old friend. But the remains were so delicious and unique that to me they were worth it. I am looking forward to pea shoots as a spring vegetable from now on!

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      Paul, your persistence with pea shoots reminds me of my persistence against the weeds. I can’t decide whether I’m dedicated, willful, or just plain stubborn. I suppose there are lots more terms for someone who won’t give up.

  • Xhen
    Reply

    Love the newsletter and wonder about buying pre ripped clothes and not supporting fair labor practices or wages – (ie who makes those pre ripped clothes & what type of struggle is being imitated by ease). I love the customization – we grow a tiny bit of things and sometimes have more than enough of one thing in the box and customization helps us!

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      Customization is starting to look like the winner, Xhen. I wonder if one can customize their rips when shopping online. I suppose so.

  • Krista
    Reply

    I love my box! It’s like Christmas every time I receive it. I look forward to the season every year. The flavor and color of your veggies – particularly your cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots – is off the charts and noticeably better than even the best organic produce in stores. The freshness is incredible. So crisp! I call it dirt fresh, and appreciate that I can get most things to last 3+ weeks, if stored properly. The customization option is a value add for me so I can load up on things I love (more greens!) and avoid things I’ve tried hard to love, but just don’t. Sorry, kohlrabi and pea shoots – tried for years, but we had to break up. I still enjoy being challenged to use every part of a plant. I made carrot top chimichurri this week (delish!) and am adding celery leaves to salads, soups, and pastas. Leftover scraps get frozen for veggie and chicken stock. Simple delicacies for pops of flavor – yum!! Many thanks for all the hard work you and your team go through for the delights you deliver in each box!

    • Farmer John
      Reply

      Krista, It’s an interesting endeavor to try hard to love things we don’t love. I have tried to convince myself that I should be able to love things I don’t love, and I have never truly succeeded. i would like to be more flexible with my love, but I’m not, but then, love itself ebbs and flows–what’s that about? Anyway, you seem wonderfully resourceful. I’m inspired.

  • Cynthia
    Reply

    We are long time shareholders and want to note that we love love love Harvie. Yes, we can deal with what we get. But so awesome to be able to work with quantities we want of produce we want to work with that particular week. For example, we are super happy to have been able to choose three heads of fennel this week. Also, the liners are great in this very hot weather! Besides the intended benefit (thank you), we think it keeps our veggies even fresher, if possible. Maybe it’s because our former site was outside, but your already stellar veggies are extra good this season. Thank you!

  • Farmer John
    Reply

    Cynthia, I have been pondering your 3 heads of fennel on and off during the week. 3 heads. You wanted them and you got them and you would not have gotten them if we did not customize. That’s a graphic argument for customization.

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