Farmer John Writes: The Most Important Thing is Not a Thing

 In Farm News

Harvest Week 19, October 27th – November 2nd, 2020

For Some Shareholders, this is Last Week of Deliveries
If you receive an every-other-week share of vegetables, and you receive a share this week, and you are not signed up for the extended season, this is your last week for receiving a share this season. Thank you for being a part of our farm this year.

If you are unsure about when your final delivery of the season will be, please find your remaining delivery dates at

Greens Galore
There is still a preponderance of greens going into your boxes. Last week’s issue of Farm News, A Bountiful Crop Report, detailed why there are so many greens. I could say “it’s not my fault!” but it sort of is my fault, if it is a fault, because I severely underestimated how many greens our fields could produce this fall. I was so wrong.

I encourage you to just revel that this fall, almost all yield surprises, especially with the greens, have been to the upside. This is very uncommon for farms to have dramatic harvest overage, so please enjoy your abundant greens, knowing that a hard frost will eventually wipe them out.

I keep saying “better that the shareholders get these greens than a frost.”

Last weekend, we prepared mightily for a hard frost that didn’t materialize. However, according to the forecast, it could have materialized, and we are committed to protecting your crops until the end of the delivery season. Not only were we leery of a hard frost, but rain was forecast for the next several days, and harvesting carrots from mud and planting garlic into mud is near-impossible.

I made the very unusual request of our workers that they work the whole day on Saturday. Many of the workers were game. (Generally, the ones who were immediate yeses are the ones who grew up on farms. They know firsthand the hardship that weather can deal a farm, that a farm can deal its farmer.)

Wow, did we fly through the work that Saturday (Oct 17). We harvested nearly 2000 bunches of carrots and planted 14,000 cloves of garlic for your next year’s garlic crop. The soil conditions were perfect. The crew also covered many beds of crops in case the hard frosts were to materialize. It was a triumphant day. The following day, Sunday, it rained all day.

some of Saturday’s carrot harvest

planting garlic into an ideal seedbed

2021 Shares Are Available
It’s hard to know what 2021 will bring us. If you want to be part of our farm for another year, which will entitle you to some of the garlic being planted in the accompanying photo, you can sign up at

Brussels Sprouts Tops
Mostly—not unanimously but mostly—the Brussels sprouts tops are a hit with our shareholders. A few examples:

“Hate to burst your bubble, but the brussels sprout tops are awful.”

“The Brussels Sprouts tops were outstanding.”

“Dear @angelicorganics: I’d never tried #brusselsgreens, the big leaves from the top of Brussels sprouts, but I trust you completely. You didn’t let me down: I blanched them and then sautéed them with mushrooms and olive oil and garlic salt, and then I sprinkled chopped walnuts on top, and then I snorted them up my nose because they were so outrageously good that eating them took too long.”

Pumpkin Pies
A shareholder left a gracious message recently that she didn’t understand how to use our Harvie system to customize, had eye problems and was going to soon have an operation on her eyes, and could she please have pumpkins in her box if it wasn’t too late to ask. I called her back and said it was too late, that her box had already gone out for delivery.

“I sure want pie pumpkins because I want to make pumpkin pies,” she said earnestly. “I’ve been a shareholder for years.”

(Dear reader: I think you know that we are in a continual flurry of work at the farm and that to manually customize orders after the deadline for customizing has passed is pretty much beyond our capabilities.)

I said, “it’s important to make those pies.” I added, “Where do you live?,” knowing that for this lovely person my heart was wanting to violate our firm policies regarding the share customization deadlines.


“I’d love to get in the car and bring you your pumpkins today.”

“You bring me those pumpkins and I’ll bake you a pumpkin pie.”

“A pumpkin pie, really? I’ll check my schedule. Whoops, that would be a half-a-day round trip, and I’m busy today. I’ll bet you already know that I’m busy. I’m really sorry. I really want you to have your pumpkins.”

The Most Important Thing
A young technician came out to the farm to do some work on a tractor.

“Nice place you have here,” he said.

“I’ll give you a tour when you are done fixing the tractor,” I offered.

Most people have a story, whether they know it or not, whether they will share it or not. Something about the charismatic way he talked intrigued me.

Being sometimes blunt, I said, “what’s your story?”

Wrench in hand, he stood up from his tractor repair position and said, “I used to be terrified of everyone, would never answer the door. I white-knuckle-panicked clenching the steering wheel driving to school, imagining having to deal with people. I hid out from the world at all costs, numbed myself until it seemed my brain was dead. When I was about 20 years old, I took a look at myself and realized I had it all wrong. Other people are the main thing in life, I realized. I was worrying about all sorts of trivial things, like they were the important things in life. But, everything else is the small stuff. The main thing in life is other human beings.”

“How did this come about?”

“It just came to me, over about a month’s time, when I was 20 or so. I went from being an introvert to being an extrovert. I came to life.”

A Good Tractor Driver is Hard to Find
A former intern from a large, Biodynamic German farm, Dottenfelderhof, told me that the annual budget for damages done to farm equipment by people in training to become farmers is over $20,000. In other words, a person learning to run farm equipment is likely to cost the farm a lot of money, over $20,000 per year in repairs.

It might seem implausible, but very few people have a knack for running a tractor, even a small tractor, even when carefully and persistently trained. They’ll either putt-putt to the barns with a tractor and wagon, taking up 12 precious minutes for a trip that should take 7 minutes, or they will bounce across the fields, jarring equipment into disrepair.

Unless a person grows up on a farm, that person probably won’t be a good tractor operator. There are rare exceptions, when a person just has a knack for running a tractor. Farm resident Alizé Jireh is such an exception.

Alizé operates our Fordson tractor with grace. She intuitively knows when to go slow, when to speed up, when to shift gears; Alize has tractor aptitude. I also determined last Saturday that the carrot is probably her spirit vegetable. I have never seen carrots make a person so happy.

Alizé transports her spirit vegetable with uncanny tractor aptitude

Farmer John

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Showing 11 comments
  • Sandy

    As the 2020 season draws to a close, I will certainly be missing my vegetable delivery. But I believe I will miss the Farm News even more. All week I shall be pondering the question: “What is MY spirit vegetable?”

    Thanks to Farmer John and the whole crew for another delicious year!

    • Farmer John

      Sandy, Glad you enjoy Farm News. I believe I have all the issues going back to almost the beginning–the early 90’s. The first many years they were in hard copy only. There was once a consideration of excerpting from Farm News over the years for a book. Another idea is for me to read portions of issues out loud and to post the readings. I’ll probably make the latter happen. The book idea is on hold, due to time availability, though it would be a lot of fun to make it happen.

  • Mary Jane Lewis

    Many years ago I was driving near Manchester Schooll and saw a boy I knew who was probably six years old driving a tractor in the field. He was so little that he had to stand up to reach the pedals. I’m quite sure he had tractor aptitude because he seemed to know what he was doing. The family had five kids and needed help in the fields, barn, etc. so the children were taught how to do a lot of things at a very young age. That six-year-old boy is farming today, and I bet he still loves driving a tractor.

    • Farmer John

      Those kids who grow up running farm equipment are rare today. They carry these gifts forward in life, whether they farm or not.

  • David Altekruse

    Any suggestions for storing carrots? Last bunch tasted great but turned rubbery in the fridge.

    • Farmer John

      See Ryan’s comments on carrot storage further below.

  • Maria

    Farmer John. I forgot to mention that I LOVED the brussel greens! I made vegan stuffed leaves with them and a wonderful tomato pasta sauce to gently ladle over them once plated. everyone I’ve shared with has raved about them. The leaves that were to small or rippped are in the freezer waiting for a vegan pot of soup to jump into. 🙂

    • Ryan Walsh

      David, about your carrot question (I’ve had the same issue)- someone recently told me that keeping the carrots submerged in a pot or bowl of water in the fridge will keep them nice and crunchy. I’m going to try this, I’ll let ya know how it goes.

    • Farmer John

      Many of our shareholders are thrilled to learn about and to receive Brussels sprouts tops/greens. Then there are some who are less than thrilled. I am not sure what the proper synonym for “less then thrilled” would be in this case. Thankfully, it is a small minority that fits into this latter category.

  • Debbie Barford

    I still have one of my 3 pumpkins left and am willing to share either the frozen cooked pumpkin or the whole pumpkin left with the shareholder in Evanston who wanted one to make pies…
    You are welcome to share my email address with them if there is still a need.

    • Farmer John

      Very generous of you, Debbie. The shareholder in need of pie pumpkins has been taken care of. Most of the upcoming issue of Farm News, Week 2, is about this pie pumpkin saga.

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