Farmer John Writes: About a Fortune Teller

 In Farm News

Harvest Week 14, September 22nd – 28th, 2020

Here Comes a Change
By now, you should have received an email announcement that, for the upcoming year, we have transitioned our CSA management platform from Harvie to CSAware, and we have rolled out our 2021 shares. We will keep using Harvie through the rest of the 2020 season. This transition is a nod to the future.

(If you did not receive this email announcement, check your spam folder. Also, note that the email was sent to the primary shareholder in your membership account.)

Be in the Moment?
It’s interesting to farm for the moment—gotta get that done today—but then to also be farming for the future, by preparing fields this fall for the upcoming year, and by building up soil fertility years in advance. The future is a mystery, yet we plan for it, and we plan on it coming towards us and us going towards it. The future finally appears as the present. Are we braced for it? Are we resilient enough to accommodate it?

Be in the Future?
Farming is a great training for the future. Farming hinders, empowers, rewards, wallops, teases, troubles, demands, permeates, destroys, builds, exhilarates, exhausts…I’m going to continue here, as I review my many decades of farming…it saddens, enraptures, sickens, depletes, weakens, strengthens, emboldens, humbles, nurtures, trains. It is the ultimate trainer for life. I continually benefit (though not always graciously) from the training it offers.

Our Shareholders and the Earth
Being an Angelic Organics shareholder is also a training—a training in accepting what the earth and the weather provide, a training in trust of your farmer and his farm to provide for your sustenance. You are also being trained in farming itself, vicariously through the stories in these editions of Farm News, and directly through your experience of the vegetables and herbs that you receive, their bounty, their scarcity, their blemishes, their vitality, their beauty.

The Future Becomes the Past
For those of you who have been with us for several seasons, you know the impact that the flooding of the prior three seasons had on the farm and on your share quality and quantity—three consecutive seasons of increasingly brutal weather. Was that sufficient reason to anticipate a fourth year of flooding? Sure it was. Was it sufficient to know that there would be a fourth year of flooding? No. Three consecutive years of flooding might foretell a fourth year of the same, might not.

Often our idea of the future doesn’t line up with the future that occurs. Covid-19 is a good example of a development that abruptly inserted itself into our future. We didn’t anticipate it. Are we resilient enough to accommodate this future that we didn’t anticipate?

There was a lot of fear that the national food supply chain would break down. Angelic Organics was inundated with requests for shares like never before. Although we had been battered for years by bad weather, we stepped up. This required more land in production, more labor, more management, machinery upgrades, systems upgrades.

One of Our Best Years Ever
The weather this year has provided for one of the best years of my life for farming—one of the best years. The rain came at the right time and usually in the right amount. Temperatures were amply warm, but seldom hot. We were able to accommodate more shares than we originally anticipated, because yields for the most part have been great, and I planted more acreage than ever before.

When I added in those extra fields of production, did I think we would have another year of flooding? Yes. Did I know we would have another year of flooding? No. I am not that brazen, to think that I am accurate about the weather’s future, to think that my opinions are the same as reality. (I opined more on this topic in 2020 Farm News, Week 2, On Love and Opinions.)

I will add here that we could not completely escape the legacy of the three prior years of waterlogged soil, as our struggle with weeds and residual mud early this season continually reminded us of our past. We were tethered to our past, like being forced to confront journal entries about an unhappy time in our life.

Just to be in the mysteries of the present moment and of the past is plenty to contemplate and navigate, but the future?

I Predict
In the future, the U.S. will likely have a president, and the president will likely be Biden or Trump. Some heroes will be villainized. Technology developments will be lauded as breakthroughs. Asteroids will have close encounters with the earth, but won’t collide.

Regarding Covid-19 in the future, there might be another flare-up, another major shutdown of the economy, more restrictions than ever…might not…I do not know. I do know, however, that if another wave of even more fear materializes, Angelic Organics will be under enormous pressure to provide food for the community, and we will sell out of 2021 shares in very little time.

If you decide to purchase a 2021 CSA share this fall, you are preparing for a future in which you will eat, and in which you will prefer to eat fresh from your local, organic farm. It’s a future that will probably unfold, given that we have been growing vegetables and herbs for our shareholders for the past 31 years.

Whether it is a future in which there is a breakdown of the national food supply chain, it seems unlikely, but I do not know. I do know that the more shareholders who sign up for 2021 now, the better prepared you and the farm will be for what the future might hand us in the upcoming year.

young forage peas herald a fertile future

Kitties in the Moment and a Fortune Teller
I slowed down the other day to view the kitties playing in the yard of Harold Pann’s dairy farm. I hadn’t seen Harold since high school fifty years ago, so I decided to stop and say hi. After a few minutes of us talking about low milk prices, I said, gesturing towards his barn, “Harold, when you built that barn—it was back in the 60’s—my mother said on our way to Church one Sunday, ‘Well, look at that. The Panns are building a new barn. They believe in the future.’”

Harold looked at me. Did I detect a pause, then a slight smile of satisfaction on this man’s weathered face? Not sure. As the kitties frolicked, he went on to further lament the low milk prices, and the loss of dairy farmers throughout the community.

These other dairy farmers had also believed in the future.

20-year-old dairy Farmer John thought he knew his future

I went to a fortune teller at the Boone County Fair in 1979. She was in the carnival section of the fair. Gracing the exterior of her trailer was an exotic painting of a beaded, robed black-haired woman hovering over a sparkling crystal ball. There might have been a crow in the painting. I’m not sure; it was a long time ago.

She said, “you are going to lose your farm.”

“Not possible,” I said.

“Yes, in a year or two—pretty much everything.”

I exited the trailer, picturing a 70-acre black, mostly flat, exquisitely fertile field that was part of my farm, knowing that I was eternally bonded to my land, secure in my land. I knew the fortune teller was wrong.

I lost that flat, black, exquisitely fertile field, amongst much other land.

The fortune teller was right.

Since childhood, I thought I knew the forever future of my farm and me. I was wrong.

When the farm went down, I was sure that I would never farm again. I was wrong.

Many years later, the redemption of the farm was chronicled in the feature documentary film The Real Dirt on Farmer Johna story seen by millions about an impossible future coming true.

redemption story of my farm on the big screen, Castro Theater, San Francisco

Thank You
Thank you for preparing for the future that arrived this year by joining us for the 2020 season.

Thank you, also, if you join us for the next season, for preparing for the future that will arrive in 2021.

Farmer John

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Showing 6 comments
  • Ken Brautigam

    John — Remember that Mercedes hubcap, rolling down a London street along the curb, right to your feet? “Time to go home,” it said. Fortunes come and fortunes go. Real wealth is more of a mystery, more elusive and yet right within our grasp.

    • Farmer John

      Ken, I revel in the wealth of my enduring friendship with you. You are often in my heart and in my thoughts.

  • Ron Ercolani

    John – I was hoping that I would have a chance to visit the farm and say good bye before we moved from Illinois unfortunately I put it off and the time arrived all too quickly and we had to leave. I hope I get the chance to stop by sometome in the future to tell you in person how much I enjoyed volunteering at the packs. It was something that I looked forward to each and every week, I so enjoyed talking to you and Heidi and your wisdom was overwhelming. I relish and look forward to reading your weekly banterings with enjoyment. I wanted to drop off a book before I left but will just mail it to you. Next time I’m up there I’ll stop by to say hello. I enjoyed this weeks post with the pictures of you, a young farmer, bit older hippie, and the dreamer. We look back on our lives and think of how we’ve gotten from A to Z and all te stops we’ve made getting there.

    • Farmer John

      Ron, You are such a fun guy. If you don’t show up here, I might just come find you to have some laughs. I have yet to get to Z.

  • Jane Schaefer

    Thank you for the beautiful and nourishing vegetables this year. I’ve been a shareholder for over 20 years and can honestly say that the corn this year was the best ever. It brought my family a bit of joy in the midst of a mostly sad and disappointing summer. I’m dreading the winter, but I’ve got a little of that wonderful corn in my freezer that I can add to a meal on some particularly dark and cold day while imagining a better, future summer.

  • Farmer John

    Ahh…sweet corn. Those fields were standing tall, right outside my office window this summer. Some of them yielded the most corn ever, and, as you say, some of the best. Thank you for a golden summer memory.

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