Farmer John Writes: Encounters with Shareholders
Harvest Week 16, October 6th – 12th, 2020
We have had quite the run on pumpkins this fall–nothing like last spring’s Covid-induced raids of the box stores of toilet paper and hand sanitizer–but still, an impressive run. I offered up to three pumpkins and five gourds per shareholder family plus a plethora of blooming flowers to cut for bouquets. This was in lieu of the cancelled Fall Farm Field Day which we have been hosting for years. Because I couldn’t really do a count of shareholder visitors, I’m guessing that as many or more shareholders have driven out to the farm for pumpkins and flowers these past few weekends (and some weekdays) as would have come in total if we had actually had the Farm Field Day.
I did a little rough math to help me with this approximation—maybe 750 pumpkins have been given away so far. Let’s say 150 went to farm staff and pack volunteers, leaving 600 for shareholders. If each family took three pumpkins, that would be at least 200 families that have come out. Sometimes there were three or more families here at the same time. About my math, if 200 families came out, that would be at least 600 visitors, figuring an average of three visitors per family. Like I said, it’s a guess, but the point is that a lot of shareholders have come out for pumpkins.
The Pumpkins are about Gone
About the pumpkins, there aren’t many left. If you come out, you might find a pumpkin and a few gourds, might not. The flowers in the U-Pick are abundant, however, though I suspect the upcoming frost this weekend (Oct 3rd-4th) will end a lot of them (perhaps not all).
Great that so Many of You Came Out
One of the biggest drawbacks of running a very production-oriented farm is that I am almost always too busy to spend time with a really important part of our farm—our shareholders. Often, when a shareholder signs up for a share, I want to call and say hi and thanks and who are you? When a shareholder writes a note, I am often tempted to pick up the phone and have a chat.
I wanted to talk to all of the shareholders I saw picking up pumpkins, and all of the shareholders who picked up pumpkins who I didn’t see. That’s my sociable impulse, rather unrealized. However, I was able to spend time with a few shareholders who came out for pumpkins and flowers. I decided to convey, as best I could, some of those experiences for this week’s Farm News. It’s not an easy task to do these encounters justice in the limited time I have to write this edition. Mostly, I am just offering up teasers.
Through a Shareholder Car Window
One shareholder rolled down her window and said that she had every copy of Farm News going back to 2003. She said she especially liked them as a resource for recipes we used to share. She then added that she had every piece of paper we had ever sent out since then, including self-addressed envelopes for submitting signups, which was how we did sales until we got swept up in the internet age.
She said, “I left my 2021 signup payment in your office in one of these envelopes you sent years back.” Sure enough, on the office desk was a self-addressed envelope from the early 2000’s.
An Affirmation of Practicality
An astute shareholder said, “I see there were some carrots lying on top of the field after you were done harvesting.”
“Those were likely split,” I replied. “Some of our shareholders would rather not receive them.”
“Besides them being of marginal quality,” she said, “you simply can’t spend all sorts of time salvaging a few carrots when you need to race off and quickly harvest a whole field of something. It’s always a trade-off.”
“Every day,” I said. “Every hour.”
Nine Year Old Camila’s Tractor Adventure
A 9-year-old named Camila showed up with her mom and her shareholder aunt. I looked at Camila and said, “when I was 9, I started milking cows here morning and night. Would you have done that at 9 if you had grown up here?”
“I think so,” she smiled enthusiastically.
“And we started driving tractors about then—my classmates and me.” I nodded to the tractor next to me. “Not that big, though.”
“Like those over there?” she said, gesturing towards the smaller tractors we use, Fordsons and Allis G’s.
“Yeah, about that size.”
“Sure,” said Camila. “I would have driven those.”
Camila got up on the tractor with me (a big one, by her standards) and her mom and aunt got on the trailer behind us. Camila steered the tractor towards the U-Pick garden (with a bit of instruction from me). She even revved the throttle a bit, making that Turbo Charged 826 International roar.
Two Lutheran Pastors Pick Flowers
Two Lutheran pastors, unknown to each other, picked up their pumpkins and flowers at the same time. This led to an interesting round of introductions and a brief discussion, of which I could not quite get the gist, about the fact that they represented different Lutheran synods, though I don’t think that is even accurate—what I just wrote about them representing different synods. There was some conversation between the pastors that propelled me back to my Lutheran childhood and my family discussing divergent paths of Lutheranism. Anyway, I thought it was cool that these two Lutheran pastors and their families were picking out their pumpkins and flowers together. One of the families made face masks for the crew.
I met a radiant mother who teaches pre-school and loves it dearly. (It wasn’t exactly pre-school—something in that age range, but maybe a wider span of ages–I can’t remember the name of the education model.)
I said “you know about Waldorf education? Rudolf Steiner’s work.”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Do you know about the Waldorf Kindergarden?”
“It’s a sort of spiritual paradise on earth, an enchanting environment. The idea is that the kindergardeners are making the transition from spiritland to earthliness at about that age, and this helps them with the transition.”
“Oh, my,” she beamed. “I must look into this.”
“The Waldorf third graders,” I continued, “I showed them around a couple of years ago, and every few feet, it seemed, they burst into song. Then I started singing back to them. Then we all sang together, and we all hugged. We hugged our way all across the farmstead.”
“The Waldorf students have great manners. That includes the Waldorf high school students. They don’t compete with one another to look the most bored when they are visiting the farm, like some high schoolers do. They come forward to meet me, look into my eyes, introduce themselves with warmth and interest.”
Two families showed up, exuberantly spilled out of their cars, and met me with smiles and laughter. I was so delighted by their joy and engagement that I ended up spending a great deal of time with them, talking about the landscape of Taiwan, secret gardens in Hawaii, physics and mysticism, farming, gardening, weather—a panorama of topics in a swirl of enthusiasm and hilarity.
We stood out in the fields, surrounded by cover crops, radishes, turnips, baby salad mix, arugula, and pea shoots, with the forces of food and nature propelling our conversation. I mentioned the frequent summer frosts at Red Acre Farm in southern Utah.
The extraordinarily vivacious Jannet said “Oh, you wrote about them in Farm News.”
“You remember that from Farm News?”
Her husband Ian said “Nothing in Farm News ever gets past her.”
“You’re that interested, huh? Why don’t you come farm with me?” I asked.
“I want to,” she said.
Ian chimed in, “that’s Jannet; she’s interested in everything and wants to do everything.”
Thank You to All of You Who Came Out to the Farm
I was delighted to see so many of you come to the farm to explore, pick flowers, and get pumpkins. It was a treat to see so many of you connect to the farm so personally. Again, I wish I could have greeted all of you personally and learned more about each and every one of you.