By Will Barden, Phase II Fellow
I’ve had few teachers in my life more helpful than the farm. I’m always amazed at the applicability of the lessons I learn out in the field to other aspects of my life.
As this crazy year winds down, things on the farm are definitely slowing down as well, reminding me how important rest is. Gone are the days out in the hot sun, planting hundreds of feet of lettuce, beets, and other tasty veggies or weeding or prepping beds before quickly moving on to the next task, just to stay on top of the massive demand that the farm requires. With the cooling temperatures and diminished sunlight, the sense of urgency lessens. There are always things to do on the farm, obviously, but it feels like we can now take a collective breath and begin to look ahead with a more rested mind, body, and soul.
Growing vegetables can be tough on the soil. Between planting crops that feed on soil nutrients and disturbing soil that would otherwise prefer to be covered and left alone, a high rotation production farm can really deliver a beating to the very soil we depend upon. This is one reason why lately, in this period of slowing down, we make generous use of ‘cover cropping’- sowing seeds such as rye, peas, vetch, buckwheat, etc. Cover crops both keep the ground covered and restore certain nutrients, like nitrogen, back into the ground, helping it get ready for its next planting. Just like growing veggies can be tough on the soil, it can also be tough on our bodies. Between the squatting, kneeling, and handling of machinery and tools - it all takes a little out of you after a while. In the same way that we cover crop, or sometimes tarp, the sections we’re taking out of production this fall, it’s important to give our bodies rest as well in order to be rejuvenated for next year’s season.
Farming is tough - not only physically, but also mentally as well. While farming can be insanely rewarding, it is also repetitive, stressful, and very frustrating at times. In the heat of the summer, it’s not hard to run yourself to exhaustion, and as your body suffers, so may your mind as well. This fall, it has been so satisfying to take this farm, once lush with vegetables (or overgrown with weeds), and put it ‘to bed.’ To see this farm, where I’ve worked for hours and hours and given so much time and attention, now all tidily tucked away or neatly planted out with cover crop, puts my mind at ease. Seeing it like this, I know that when the time comes, the farm will be ready to live up to its fullest potential again, and with a restful fall and winter, so will I.