In many ways, farming is an exaggeration of the changing tides of our everyday lives. It’s like putting our black-and-white silent-film hopes, dreams and emotions into Technicolor, with surround sound.
We often said, at the farm in Amherst, that we should be a reality TV show. Farming is real drama in real-time. The emotions that we are able to address and partition with the off-season luxury of time, comfort and rest, are a swirl of unsorted elements looking for any exit at all from our anatomy in the thick of the fall harvest.
Who knows which emotions are appropriately directed and which are misplaced chaos, spewn at birth on the first object to cross their paths.
This is farming, or at least, this is farming to me. It is the contradiction that pulls, as a “sailor who fell from grace with the sea.” Torn impossibly between two paths, made of flesh and of water. Both routes require a toll, and the rates are steep. Upon every turn we are required to shed one layer of self, to put in the eternal care of some trusted woodsman or troll beneath the bridge.
It is hardly a wonder, then, that my plans change daily. On what I call my better days at the farm, I see myself taking on more responsibilities and helping to expand an already growing operation. I become excited about the possibilities and invest myself in the importance of getting that extra two cases of cilantro or taking that 2 tons of napa cabbage out of the field before the first frost.
The sun shines. The wool of my collar does not itch my neck. The pallets fit in the cooler just so.
And then it begins to sleet. The hole in my boots lets in enough moisture so my sock is soaked and my foot is a tingling ice crystal. The walk-in looks like this:
Suddenly, I’m not so sure I like vegetables after all. Dirty little buggers.
This is a constant affair, which I suspect is not uncommon among agricultural laborers. Mostly, it’s easy to resign oneself and say that it’s just a paycheck. But, as I’ve said before, it’s not a very large one, and we’re not in it for the money. I could make more bagging the produce I grow, without exaggeration. So, to resign myself, to divest the very passion which got me into agriculture, is a disillusioning and psychologically devastating option.
On many levels I feel like Ernesto “Che” Guevara who once wrote, “my heart was a pendulum between her and the street.” The solid and tangible love of soil and growth in constant battle with the daunting exploration of an uncatchable sprite, racing through the caverns of my cerebrum. The solidity of secure physical love and home released into the labyrinth of injustice just at the end of the gravel drive.
What is important, and which role is mine? The effects of long hours, hard labor and constant movement bring the sediment to the surface at higher velocity than any other field I’ve tried. True personalities are revealed quicker. Idiosyncracies and weaknesses are more evident. Every moment is exaggerated. Like on a hot day, when the water starts just warm enough, that it’s not long before it begins to boil. And so, the choice must be made sooner, before finding the right recipe, to start cooking, or let the water evaporate.