Farm News

Farmer John Writes: Is a Farm a Being?

Harvest Week 8, August 11th – 17th, 2020

Baby Greens Coming Soon
Soon, baby greens will be coming your way—eight beds of them: three of arugula, three of baby lettuce, and two of baby chard, this after trying again and again to bring you baby greens, tearing up bed after bed because of weeds.

baby chard

Did we finally beat the weeds? I don’t know. Maybe they simply subsided because it is now later in the season, and there is less growing power available to them. The baby greens that are coming on have been seeded to baby greens two or three prior times this season, and those crops were lost to a proliferation of weeds. Now the weeds in those crops are manageable, maybe 5 or 10% the population what they were prior. Now it costs maybe $100 per bed to weed them, vs well over $1,000 per bed earlier in the season.

There is still pressure from quickweed, also known as galinsoga. If you find some in your bag of baby greens, know that we tried to keep it out. Also know that it is sometimes served in salads or smoothies, so maybe you will welcome it.


This Week
Arugula should be available for deliveries later in the week, though that will depend on the weather. Rain is forecasted and might prevent harvest. Some of the leaves were damaged by flea beetles early on, but the leaves that came later are mostly unscathed. If some of your leaves have holes from flea beetle damage, it won’t hurt you to eat them, but also feel free to discard them.

arugula under row cover protecting against flea beetles

More Yet
I have subsequently seeded many more beds of baby greens in these same fields—mizuna, spinach, pea shoots, more baby lettuce. I suspect that these crops will also not be subject to the overwhelming weed pressure that prevailed earlier in the season. (For those of you who think it’s too early to seed spinach, because it won’t germinate in hot August weather, the forecast for temperatures this August is for mild daytime temperatures and downright cool evening temperatures.) Also seeded are cilantro, dill, daikon radishes, easter egg radishes and turnips.

What’s Fair?
Occasionally a shareholder will write to suggest that any extra crops from the CSA should not be sold as extras through the Harvie system; the person claims that these crops rightfully belong to the CSA shareholders at no extra cost. This issue has come up over the years. I will point out that many CSA farms grow for wholesale markets and also for farmers’ markets, so the idea that everything grown on a CSA farm belongs to the shareholders is not applicable.

Another consideration is that this year, for example, I suppose an extra $70,000 or more has gone to unanticipated weeding expenses, and probably another $10,000 to $20,000 to re-seeding crops, then re-seeding again. It is no more justified to say that the farm owes the shareholders all of its crops than it is to say that the shareholders owe the farm extra money because of the adversity encountered in a given year. I will add, though, that on occasion a shareholder takes mercy on the farm when we encounter extreme hardship and sends us a check to help with the unanticipated expenses, a most generous act.

These ideas of what is fair are always interesting, and they become much more interesting and nuanced when carefully examined. This year, for instance, some crops are growing in unprecedented abundance; some have failed again and again. The bounty ideally balances out the losses, but it would be most difficult to tally all of this in a ledger.

This Reminds Me of What’s Possible
Brook Le Van, head rancher at Sustainable Settings in Carbondale, Colorado, stopped by the farm recently after procuring an Allis G cultivating tractor east of here. I met Brook at the Utah Farm & Food Conference in Southern Utah this past February. At the conference, he presented on—well, I suppose I should just say it outright—esoteric agriculture to an assembly hall of mostly Mormons. Brook provided much documentation of the success of his exotic practices to this practical and discerning group of hard-working, no-nonsense farmers and ranchers, and he wowed them with his research and his evidence. A Mormon rancher presented on his application of Brook’s methods on his 20,000-or-so acre spread and the ensuing transformation of his land, the positive impact on the health of his cattle and on his finances.

Brook has been quite influenced by Rudolf Steiner’s work, especially in the realm of agriculture which today is presented as Biodynamics, based on a series of lectures given to farmers by Steiner in 1924. As Brook has noted, though, Steiner planned to give an additional series of lectures on agriculture, but this never materialized due to Steiner’s passing. I feel that Brook embodies the work that Steiner would have offered up in this second set of lectures which never materialized. I suppose we could call it Beyond Biodynamics. I take warmly to Brook’s methods, as I have been interested in esoterica since about the time I started reading at 6 or 7 years old. (I must say that I also got my very practical mother interested at about the same time, or at least intrigued.)

Anyway, I am bringing this up to you about Brook because he said something that impressed me deeply. He said, “The film, The Biggest Little Multi-Million Dollar Farm, should have been more transparent about all the money that was poured into creating that agricultural paradise, because it gave the impression that the enterprise was much more bootstrap than it actually was. It wasn’t wrong that the farm was flooded with capital, it just should have been made more clear that this was the case. Farms all over are trying, crying, to be sustainable, but they don’t have the resources. If capital were to flow into farms striving for balance and sustainability the way it flowed into that farm in the film, the problems of the planet would be over.”

Have I Dedicated My Whole Life to a Being or a Thing?
I spent five years touring with the film about my life and my farm, The Real Dirt on Farmer Johnoffering a somewhat similar message as Brook, that farms need engagement and support, and support could be in the form of people being willing to pay more for food from sustainable farms. Of course, direct infusions of capital would provide more immediate results, but my message while on tour was “Nurture the farm and the food will follow.”

I endeavored to show people just how extraordinary farms can be, as individualities, as self-contained organisms, as beings–not as things, not as production facilities. A farm is a place that throbs with life: crops reach for the sun, wagons creak, muscles bulge, trucks purr, tractors roar, birds sing, rains splash, workers laugh, barns preside, trees loom…

For more about the farm as an individuality, a being, read my essay The Barn is There.

nurturing the being of the farm with a diversity of cover crops—clover, alfalfa and timothy

Biodegradable Box Liners
Many of you have inquired about the box liners that your vegetables are placed in. We cannot re-use them, so please don’t return them to the farm.

They are designed to biodegrade in a variety of situations including:

  • Home Composting
  • Commercial Composting
  • Landfills
  • Buried in, or in contact with the soil

Our U-Pick Garden is Now Open
Learn more on our U-Pick Garden page.

Farmer John