Farmer John Writes: A Day of Heart
Harvest Week 15, Deliveries of September 26th – 30th, 2023
I normally wouldn’t share a timeline such as below in Farm News. It’s a little like what a person might write to their relatives on the back a huge postcard about their trip to the Grand Canyon, but I am nevertheless recounting it, because the end of last week was a spectacle unfurling in both slow and rapid motion. This was due to an immense harvest to manage, setting up for the Field Day and hosting it, and the whirlwind of the Patterson contingent visiting. Sara Patterson in particular is a force of nature that I can barely fathom.
(Unfortunately, my wife Haidy was ill this past weekend, so that is why you don’t see her in this issue of Farm News.)
Early afternoon, Sara and Symbria Patterson and their growing manager TK arrived at Angelic Organics. Sara’s terms shared before the visit: they will make all the meals; they will get a tour of our equipment; they get to work in the fields.
They watched the pack for a little bit. Then I showed them around the farmstead, keeping TK especially in mind, since this was his first visit to the farm.
Sara made potato leek celeriac soup, biscuits and cookies for supper that evening.
On the Friday before the Field Day, Sara and TK, with the crew, harvested radishes, kale, celeriac, thyme, lettuce mix, chard, pumpkins, and gourds, then washed pumpkins.
“You let us gringos work with the crew!” Sara exclaimed. “I hope we didn’t slow them down.”
“You didn’t,” I reassured Sara.
At noon that Friday, Sara, Symbria, TK, and our spirited crew enjoyed a meal of tacos with horchata, made by H-2A crew members Ruben, Mayra and Maythe.
The meal was followed by a gathering in our barn theater, where Sara shared the history of Red Acre Farm along with strong images of its metamorphosis since she started it up 14 years ago when she was 14. (It’s worth clicking on the Red Acre link and poking around their earthly and otherworldly farm.)
I showed video clips of the crew working throughout the season (and partying one night). TK projected pastoral photos of H-2A worker Maythe’s family farm in southern Oaxaca.
As dusk arrived, Sara and TK set out to harvest flowers, cornstalks and squash for decorating the buildings for the Field Day. TK helped for a while, then retired to bed, and Sara characteristically kept going until 1 on the morning, harvesting and decorating with a flashlight. (Was the flashlight strapped to her head? I’m not sure. Phone taped to her head? Not sure.)
Next morning, we woke up to a beautifully decorated farmstead, and peach pies for everybody made by Sara with peaches from a tree in Pollo’s yard that he planted years ago.
The Field Day, Saturday
Some of the crew scrambled to harvest crops for the upcoming pack, and everyone else, including Sara and TK, scrambled to get ready for the big event.
Sara later recounted, “you wouldn’t let TK and me harvest on Saturday. You said we had to help set up.” (Setting up that morning was a very big project before guests started arriving at 10:45.)
Longtime pack volunteers Liza and Mary came out early to make even more bouquets, beyond those that Sara had fashioned the previous night.
Our Field Day was fabulous. We had a wonderful turnout on a warm sunny day—a huge surge of shareholders compared to Field Days in recent years.
Learn more about the now stately maple tree by clicking on What Are You Going to Do with that Stick?, a story which I first wrote for Farm News in September, 1994.
Pack volunteer coordinator Don Glasenapp and I did 4 hayrides.
Community singing led by shareholder Megan Eberhardt was most energizing and bonding. It permeated our guests with joy and a feeling of togetherness.
As the stage presentation was starting, spirited pack volunteers Bill and Cathy took kids out to the field to look for potato treasures—exciting time for the kids, digging in the dirt.
On the stage, charismatic Sara Patterson presented beautifully about her farm in Southern Utah. Sara’s mother Symbria moderated the ensuing discussion between Sara and me with grace and wit. And…it was a bit of a comedy show—unrehearsed, lively and rambunctious.
Shareholders in the audience were most attentive, and there wers many questions and comments from the audience, such as:
“It’s been great to see the farm grow and unfold during the 30 years I have been a shareholder.”
“How can we help the farm?”
“What is organic farming?”
“What about plastic mulch?”
“Why do you do this?”
“What’s your least favorite thing about farming?”
Sara and Farmer John: too hard, finding shareholders, keeping people happy, dealing with complaints, discounting shares.
“What is your most favorite thing?”
Sara: building community.
Farmer John: dealing with infinity.
As the Field Day was winding down, Jonathan, a new shareholder this year, approached me to discuss Rudolf Steiner, a topic dear to my heart (as you may have noticed). Jonathan encountered Steiner a year or so ago. Jonathan and I marveled at the extraordinary impact that Steiner’s work has had on our lives. This engagement with the focus on Steiner led to an even more glorious ending to the Field Day, as we and Jonathan’s partner and a longtime shareholder Chris discussed the importance of bringing people together, of building community, of people feeling seen, and of seeing the other.
The Field Day was a Day of Heart.
On Sunday, after the joy of breakfast, I showed TK and the Pattersons the farm equipment. They mostly do their farm work with hand tools and muscle power.
TK drove a tractor for the first time ever.
Radishes—the radishes sized up fast. They’ll do that.
Lettuce—last week, we had to substitute head lettuce for lettuce mix, because the fields were so wet and we could not harvest the lettuce mix. This week, by dodging the rain, we are luckily able to harvest the lettuce mix to substitute for the head lettuce we offered.
Spinach—we were fortunate to be able to harvest a beautiful spinach crop with our greens machine, by dodging the rain.
Brussels Sprouts Tops—more sprouts tops were ordered this week than spinach or lettuce. Wow.
Next week—broccoli, bok choy, kohlrabi, pie pumpkins and more, of course, but these itemized crops seem so distinctly transitional to fall.
Late September often brings rains. Our crops that are embedded in the earth are carrots, daikon radishes and potatoes. We will jump at the first opportunity to harvest these precious crops. Now it’s a race with weather.
Of course, there is another weather event that will likely arrive in the next couple weeks. Most of our crops still in the field can withstand at least a mild frost…
After the Q&A on the stage, an Angelic Organics shareholder couple said to Sara and Symbria, “When we retire, we would like to come to Cedar City to live and become part of your farm.”
Is that poaching? Maybe not, since the Pattersons say they didn’t instigate it.
I sort of playfully offered TK a job here.
Is that poaching?
I said I did it playfully.