I can definitely see a change in the fields in our area. Not only can one easily see the developing corn cobs in the corn fields, but the corn plants themselves, along with the natural fauna found at the edges of the fields, on fence lines, and in the ditches of country roads, are starting to change color. Wild parsnip, that grows in the ditches has died back, and leaves on plants like Virginia creeper are starting to turn red. In our vegetable fields, grasses are starting to grow thickly in the canopies of our crops, especially in vegetables that have died back like our potatoes. To me, the fields start looking worn out by Labor Day weekend.
Not all crops are done, though. We will continue to harvest potatoes for several months, and some crops, like tomatoes, melons, and peppers are peaking right now. We also plant succession crops throughout the summer, and fresh cucumbers are almost ready for another crop. We also plant radishes, carrots, lettuce, and other greens to take advantage of the cool growing conditions in late September. We also need to keep these growing for November and December harvests. Even as we start cleaning up the fields from one season, we are already planting crops for the next season. This continuous cycle of farming keeps us very busy. At least once a year, we rest from the busy schedule.
Susan and I just got back from a short vacation. Matt, our farm manager, is gone this week on a vacation, and Heather, our field manager, took her vacation two weeks ago. These vacations are important to everyone’s mental health. Once our vacations are complete, it will be the last time we take off for almost a year. Our work weeks run from 5 – 7 days per week, depending on the season, and even when it seems like we wouldn’t have much work to do, like in January, we are in fact very busy. Susan and I, like most family farms, also work off-farm jobs as well. Farming and growing food is not something that one can do half-way either. It is a life we love and appreciate, but it is an all consuming life.
For example, we cannot simply afford to glance at the weather. While we cannot control it, we must almost always react to it every week. Rain in the forecast this Monday means that the harvest crew that comes in on Mondays to clean up the food items that require timely harvests like cherry tomatoes, green beans, and squash, will have to come in early and work as much as they can before the storms chase them out of the field. They will then circle back on Tuesday to try to clean up what they miss. It also means that potatoes can’t be harvested until later in the week, which causes labor and equipment bottlenecks later in the week when time-sensitive crops like tomatoes, corn, and melons must be harvested. A storm may mean that we have to close up the greenhouses for the day to avoid damage, and later in the fall, cold weather can determine emergency harvesting activities and they will need to be scheduled with little notice. Wet weather can inhibit weeding activities too, and diseases related to moisture may have to be addressed in key crops with little notice. Every day, we assess these and more.
I share this information, not because I feel some kind of remorse for the work that farmers do, but because it is easy to not forget the effort required to produce food. It took a vacation for me to realize how much I am plugged into and aware of threats and activities on the farm. While it was obviously good for us to get away, it wasn’t until the third day of our camping trip that I realized that I didn’t need to monitor the temperature and rainfall predictions for Vermont! I also didn’t need to assess every field I passed for disease and vigor, but that habit was a little hard to stop. I guess the most important realization that I had was that I am thankful for a very skilled team of farmers who work at The Wright Way Farm who managed all of the daily issues like the professionals that they are, which allowed Susan and I an opportunity to take our minds off of the farm for one week. Because of their dedication and skill, we are now recharged and ready to farm another year.