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Monday, August 4, 2014

The Glorious Summer Crew!

2014 Powisset Summer Crew!

Today marks the penultimate week of the 12-week adventure that is the Powisset Summer Crew. For those of you who didn’t already know, the Summer Crew is the 4-person team of ringers that joins the farm family at the end of May to weed, harvest, plant and continue to tackle the seemingly endless list of field projects that shape farm life at the height of the season. If you’ve eaten a carrot at Powisset this season, you can be sure the Summer Crew expertly weeded and thinned those two months ago; if you’ve cooked a zucchini, you know the Summer Crew has picked that fruit and 1,000’s of pounds of others, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning of the last month; and if you’ve plucked a colorful cherry tomato you couldn’t pass up on the way to the PYO chard, be assured that those rows and rows have been staked and carefully twined, four or five times each by the hands of our glorious Summer Crew. Needless to say, we couldn’t do it without them. They show up every morning, ready for farm battle, and have taken it all in stride: heat, humidity, towering weeds, rainstorms, changes of plans and marathon handweeding sessions. And yet, they come back each day, hustling with gusto into the fields promptly at 7:30, suited up in rain gear and always cheery, ready to take on the new challenges of the day. Below are some glimpses into the farm from their perspectives, and be pleasantly warned: this isn’t a skim and dash blog post; this is a post to dig into. So please put your feet up, refill your coffee and join the Summer Crew for a look at their summers in the fields . . .

Nora harvests garlic like a pro.

NORA
I believe in a certain kind of fate. In any attempt to transform a situation, a lot of effort is required, but after a point, one must leave the situation to fate, i.e. there’s a part of every situation that is utterly uncontrollable. Some might call this laziness or passivity. I like to think that in any given situation, you land where you are meant to land. I landed at Powisset this summer. While I don't know where this experience will fit in the story of my life, I'm very happy to be here.
My interest in farming grew steadily in college as I dabbled in gardening and beekeeping, meeting many people with farming experience along the way. I realized a bit too late that Environmental Science impassioned me more than Anthropology, and instead of staying for an infamous 5th year, I put a lot of time into my hobbies. I made a practical decision to take a job on campus post-graduation, despite my yearning to work in food, especially sustainable agriculture. This yearning was born out of a desire to affect change upon our seemingly broken food system.
Here I am two years later, finally at a farm! I have learned a ton this summer, and while I’m not keeping track, I would bet I’ve harvested a ton too.  My constantly dirty nails and the faint allium aroma that has permeated my hands reminds me of my morning work. I enjoy the work – it’s extremely satisfying, and somewhat meditative. Being outdoors, especially at a place as beautiful as Powisset, is wonderful.  I’ve experienced a blurring of time that is unlike other summers. Having lived most of my life in a region with distinct seasons, I am quite familiar with summers flying by. This summer’s blurring of time is more of a shuffling of time, perhaps. I can’t precisely place how long ago an event occurred, or the order of certain events, but it doesn’t matter. Time almost feels circular here. I like the circular nature of farming in which every plant and task is part of a cycle. I’ve noticed some of my thoughts are circular too. While harvesting, I often think about and discuss the dishes that can and will be made, and when I’m in the kitchen preparing food, my mind wanders to the field, and I ponder the work that’s gone into each vegetable. Sharing food from Powisset with others has been an added bonus this summer, and Friday lunches in the barn with the Powisset crew will be sorely missed.
It’s hard to believe the summer crew has less than ten days left! I’m not ready for it to end, so my plan is to visit often. I am returning to my university job this fall, but come springtime, I hope to be back in farm fields!

Frannie is always photo-ready.
FRANNIE
Hello! My name is Frannie and as I write this I am nearing the end of my first summer here at Powisset, which is causing me to have a bit of a meltdown about how this summer has passed too quickly. Spending my mornings in the fields with my lovely crewmembers over the past 10 weeks has been the best part of my summer. There is really nothing like getting to hang out with awesome vegetables and people in the dirt all day. I come from a long line of dairy farmers and my farming background consists mostly of working with cows, goats, and occasionally chickens, so when I started in the fields weeding potatoes my first morning at Powisset I had to first get over the fear that I was going to break the seemingly delicate plants that weren’t going to moo at me to let me know that I was doing something wrong. Luckily, I destroyed much fewer plants than I thought I would and discovered a new love for veggie-care like seeding in the greenhouse, harvesting potatoes, carrots, and scallions, and twining tomatoes. I’ve spent my afternoons away from Powisset this summer scooping ice cream at my family’s dairy bar on our farm, Crescent Ridge Dairy.  
During the school year I am a psychology major at Fordham University in New York City, where I often get confused looks when I tell people that I’m really into farming. However, I’ve made peace with these two sometimes opposing areas of my life by deciding that its okay to have multiple passions, and that it makes for a much happier and healthier mind to do what you love rather than what you think you’re supposed to be doing. For me, being able to be involved in the process of growing food and being a part of the cycle of the land is grounding, humbling, and often when I feel my mind is its healthiest.

In my free time this summer I’ve been listening to a lot of Johnny Flynn, my favorite musician, watching reruns of The Office on Netflix, and teaching myself how to cross-stitch. I’ve also been mentally preparing myself to spend next semester in London, England, where I guess I’ll have to become re-accustomed to wearing clothes that aren’t covered in dirt. I’m looking forward to my last couple weeks at Powisset this summer, but I’m already sad about all the farming and veggies I’m going to miss out on after my season is over, so if anyone wants to send some of those sweet potatoes that are going to be ready in October to London I wouldn’t stop you.

Eliza is kind of a bada**.
ELIZA
Andy and I are across from each other in a bed of onions, weeding on our hands and knees. The fourth of July storm that had turned the rows of potatoes into canals is long gone now and dust flies up my nose as I try to double-hand a patch of grass and chickweed. Though neither of us has spoken of it aloud, Andy and I are in a silent race. I see her fingers nab a weed that I'd left behind and quickly reach over to poach a weed from her side. I can feel the sun starting to cook my bum through my orange rubber rain pants, but there's no time to pause now: Andy has her digital watch on timer mode and we're trying to beat the 24 minutes and 42 seconds it took us to finish the last bed. When we reach where Nora and Frannie started, we spring up and leap frog over them.

Meryl is on the tractor cultivating in New Mexico (or is it Colorado?), and the rest of the crew is up at the wash station cleaning the harvest from earlier that morning, so it's just the four of us summer crew-ers for now. "The tractor queen," I say, indicating towards Meryl as Andy and I return to our knees.

"She's seeing in green," Andy replies.

"So fresh and so clean," Frannie calls from behind.

"Hurting my spleen," Nora finishes.

After a pause, I sing our summer juke box's common refrain: "Ain't nobody booty poppin' nooooo moooore." Seemingly nonsensical to an outsider, the phrase had become as common as "nice work" to us. What's more, it's also versatile—you could sing it to genuinely mourn the decline of "booty popping," or to explain something you don't quite understand (like the secret lives of plants), or to congratulate the group (as seen above).

We weed on, pull, scuffle, crawl, pull scuffle crawl pullscufflecrawlpullscufflescrawl my sweat mustache and the onions growing in harmony now as we pull the last nub of weeds and stop the clock. "23:17!" Andy cries. We trade high fives, chug water, and move on to the next bed together. ​


Andy likes to remain serious at all times.
ANDY
Hello, there! My name is Andrea, or Andy, but folks on the farm sometimes refer to me as Sugar, my middle-aged, lounge-singing alter ego. This season marks my third as a member of Powisset’s summer crew. It’s so wonderful to be back! Lots has changed and expanded since I first stepped foot on this farm—the endless tomato rows have hopped to the other side of the road; renovations have brought a shiny new kitchen; beloved apprentices have moved on to new adventures, and others—no less good-looking or handy with a hoe–– have arrived; Kasey has breathed life into a beautiful flower CSA; the mangy pigeon that once frequented the wash station has disappeared; we've acquired two princely farm cats and fifty times as many chickens.... But that same sense of groundedness that draws me to small-scale farming, and that same quality of jolliness that keeps me at Powisset, certainly remain. Not to mention that this place is still unbelievable eye-candy (and ear- and nose- and just plain- candy)!

Nature and the messiness that accompanies it have always brought me joy. As a youngin,’ I would stalk squirrels as I attempted to emulate, chimpanzee-less, my idolized Jane Goodall, and go on frogging expeditions with my mother in the Needham town forest. Now, entering my final year of college, not much has changed: I’ll jump out a dorm room window to photograph a groundhog that appears across the street, and find solace in a good tree-climb every now and then. My interest in sustainable agriculture doesn’t have a clear direction yet, but is tied up in this love of life, as well as in my fascination with the interactions between life and the rock and atmosphere that surround it. I’m currently studying biology and environmental studies at Wesleyan University. So far I prefer rain pants to lab coats, so perhaps farming will be in my future—who knows?

 It’s so easy to get lost in our biosphere; finding one’s place within the intricate complex of interdependencies that comprise our earth's systems, and tracking the ethical, ecological, or nutritional reliability of one’s food sources are both overwhelming tasks. It’s so easy to do unknowing harm. When I’m farming, though, I feel like I’m doing the least harm. (Perhaps the weeds that I massacre, or the potato beetles that I’m less than thrilled to smash, would claim otherwise…) Now, many weeks into our summer crew season, we’ve spent time with plants at varying points in their life cycles and been involved in a diversity of projects—from seeding in the greenhouse to transplanting sweet potatoes to weeding beets to harvesting garlic… all through sun and rain and sweat and song. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!



What’s in the share (most likely):
Full: lettuce, kohlrabi or celery, cukes, squash, peppers, eggplant, scallions or leeks, tomatoes (!), potatoes, cooking green, carrots, beets

Small: lettuce, cukes, squash, peppers, eggplant, allium choice, cooking green, carrots, beets or potatoes

PYO: beans, parsley, sunflowers, kale or chard, dill flowers, first hint of raspberries and cherry tomatoes!

Events and Awesomeness at the farm:
Tuesday: Jordan Brothers Seafoood at the farm from 1:30-6:30
Friday: 2pm-3pm, volunteer in the flower garden for Flower Power Hour
Saturday: 8am-noon, volunteer in the fields with the farmers


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