I snapped these picture months ago. It was during some of the first nice weather of the spring and I was sitting on the porch watching these kids build this fort, marveling at how well they were working together. They don’t always; they have to negotiate a lot and at a young age, that isn’t the easiest thing to do. Still, they did so well on this project, no one getting upset, no one becoming bossy, no one feeling left out, the baby was even playing along. I was tickled. And the fort stood at the end, the product affirming the work they did.
That day I started thinking about this post, about what it is like working together on the farm, about what I thought this year might look like in regards to the laboring on the farm. We knew that on one hand, with a tractor in play, the farmer would be able to increase the space he was growing on while still saving time that could then be used to keep up with growing more food on more space. But ground prep is just one small part of the growing of food and everything else, from planting seeds and transplanting plants to weeding to harvesting and washing and bundling…this is all work still done by hand. It takes quite a few man hours to do this.
When we first moved to the farm and thought about starting our farm business, we made our business plan and set our goals with the thought that we would have two mostly full time farm workers, the farmer and I. I’m not sure why we thought this since I had been a stay at home mom for the prior five years working a handful of part time jobs here and there, but nothing too intense and always while the farmer was home with the small fries. We had this idea that we would all be here, all together, working and playing and schooling. Picture perfect.
But the reality is, of course, that with children and a home to care for–that first year a one year old, a three year old, and a six year old–this mama did not a full time field worker make. We adjusted our plans accordingly, and since then, the farmer has done it all for the most part. I have always worked behind the scenes and helped at the markets, but the work I have been able to do in the field and even on harvest days is paced by the children at my side. Some years, at various stages, each of them have been good transplant helpers, great potato planters, pretty helpful harvesters, and generally good playmates. This year–although the oldest boy has long since stopped waking early to pick rainbow chard on Wednesday mornings because he loves the colors of the stalks, and the middle boy who loves to work by his father has only begged over and over again to learn how to drive the tractor (because he loves machines that one), and the little girl who used to sing, “grow, plants, grow” as a blessing for me each time I nestled a transplant into the ground with her help has moved on–the baby (who I’m not sure I can call that anymore since he is almost two) is so darn independent with these three older siblings to learn from and play with that I have, more than ever, been able to work and help in the fields.
Which is good, because as we try to expand from the one man acre and half operation we are to hopefully a 4-5 acre one, we can see the limitations the farmer has doing it all by himself. We are still not at full production, but we are realizing that what we want to do will take two workers but will only be the size we need to be at just to support ourselves, not at the point to have any employees. We’re not sure how we will work all that out, but for now the kids and I dance our way through the days and weeks trying to balance our time on the farm working with our time playing and doing special kid stuff and getting in those important summer treats. Then, if I am lucky, the dishes get done at the end of the day too.
But oh! We do love working together! The farmer is fond of watching me in the field and I am fond of the feeling of physical labor. I know that in order to balance this with my love of time with my kids, we are going to have to rely on help. This week we had a friend come over and play with the kids for the morning; next week we may have a friend come over to help finish planting some things we wanted in the ground yesterday. I know that other farms get this kind of help and utilize volunteers and friends to make things happen, but it has been hard for us to accept and/or ask for this. Although part of this farming gig is the building of community, we are also very private, quiet people who get along best with each other. Lately, I guess we have come to realize that our definition of “working together” will have to expand in order to make it all work. I suppose that is part of the original “community supported agriculture” movement in the first place, not just fiscal support but usually help on the farm, support and connection on an even greater level. Friends, grandma and grandpa, community members, me and the kids–hopefully with a little bit of help from all these extra hands, the farmer will be able to do it all! Just like in so many of the folk tales we tell to our children–sometimes even the smallest bit of help can make a world of difference.