This morning, I awoke to gray skies that eventually opened to allow the feeble light of the sun to gently bathe the frozen earth. The winds howled all night last night, seeming to drive right through the walls of our house. We needn’t worry. The hundred-year old timbers held firm like they have since before my parents were even born. Blustery evenings are part of life in January in the Midwest. Last night was not a particularly atypical January night. January nights usually manifest in one of two ways.
In the first, the temperature plummets under a clear winter sky with light from distant suns that shimmer like jewels against the dark shroud of the winter night. It is quiet. Sounds are consumed and lost in the void that hangs above before falling as ice crystals that accumulate on the windows and other surfaces on the world below. On these nights, I will often stare up at the infinite universe, and contemplate how small and feeble our existence is. This time of year, the sun so far away. It’s easy to experience the precarious nature of our planet, and how difficult survival is.
The second type of January evening is more kinetic. When the wind howls, it reminds me that I am not alone. When the cold January winds blow across the fields, the deer will find each other and huddle together inside of some windbreak, like a small grove of trees. By taking turns standing on the outside of the herd, they protect each other by shielding those in the inner circle from the wind. They survive because of their community. It is the same with us. When the wind howls on a cold January night, we take cover in the protection of our house. In the protection of shelter, we listen to the wind in the protection and company of our family. Nights like that remind me that while life is always precarious, it is best shared with others.
I am also reminded of the gift of life. The blowing wind is nature reminding us that all is not dead. The wind is almost alive, and indeed, it is indicative of a dynamic earth harboring the power of renewal. Without the changing conditions in our atmosphere, the machinations of a living earth that transports heat and moisture across the globe, life would likely not thrive on our home world. The winds, however cold, are part of this system that allows us to exist. This winter has been unusually mild, but even the coldest of winters is survivable because some heat is moved from the equatorial regions to the remotest corners of our planet. Our habitable environment is a tiny shell contained with the razor-thin atmosphere of our planet of birth as it hurls through the immense, cold void of space, a miracle for sure. The winds remind me of this.
Over the next few months, the winds will bring more life-giving heat as the sun climbs slowly north. The early evidence will be the slightly longer days. Even now, the days are a couple of minutes longer than at the solstice in December. The heat of the sun will follow soon, and when it does, the earth will awaken. Life in the soil will stir, and eventually the dormant ecosystem will engage. As members of this living ecosystem who possess a role and purpose within it, we must also prepare to engage in our ancient tasks. Life on the farm has begun to stir. Even as the spring thaw is still weeks away, we are awakening. We are planning and planting. Early lettuce, carrots, and the first of our July red onions have been planted. Within a week, we will be bringing the first greenhouse of the season online. By the first week of February, it will be full already.
We are members of an environmental community just as we are members of our human community. Community Supported Agriculture is a cooperative venture between farmers and the communities that they serve. It is one of many systems that help sustain local farms so that they can in turn help sustain their communities. For us, the season has started. Seeds are being purchased and planted, and employees are working longer hours. In an effort to reward those who are able to support us with the seeds for the season in these early months, we are opening our early bird offer from now through February 28. While there is plenty of time to take advantage of the early bird special, we are very grateful for anyone who can join as early as possible.
Farming is an act of faith. Farmers plant seeds, trusting that they will produce in their rightful time. It takes faith in the seeds, the process, and ourselves. It also takes faith in larger things too. We enter each season with the faith and trust in our community as well. The 2019 season, as with all seasons before and to come, lies before us full of hope and promise. We expect that it will not be easy, but then nothing worthwhile ever is. So, as I am greeted today by the feeble January sun, I am reminded that life is precious. I think of the fragility of ecosystems and of my role as a farmer in the ecosystem I find myself and my role in the community that I belong. I look to the season ahead with the anticipation of the adventure that lies before me. Most importantly, however, I am reminded that any season is the product of an entire community working together. That may even be the grand purpose of it all, realizing that our survival is tied to our connections and roles within the communities in which we find ourselves. Such realizations make me appreciate farming even in the face of the challenges that lie ahead.