This piece on midsummer farming originally appeared in the Berkshire Co-op Market’s summer newsletter.
When you’re on a roller coaster, there’s a moment at the top of the very first peak when, if you had the presence of mind to look around, the view would be amazing. Sometimes, at Three Maples Market Garden, it’s a lot like that. There’s a brief moment when the beds are neatly laid, seeds are sprouting in orderly rows, and transplants are tucked into the soil and happily taking root. For a split second the farm is everything I imagined all winter long, but it’s hard to take the time to notice it because– whoosh– here comes the ride.
Now it’s summer, and the farm carries a different kind of perfection. The pea vines are bearing prolifically, the lettuce heads are lush and delicious, and the squash plants are growing before our very eyes. There are also the not so pretty parts: pests and weeds and, this season, waterlogged plants. It’s the nature of a small produce farm that no one task takes very long, and my mind is always on what needs to be done next. While weeding the green beans I’m also noticing that the eggplants could use a dose of foliar feed and remembering that I need to check the cucumbers for the striped yellow beetles that can really put a damper on their growth. I make a mental note to tell my husband that we need to start trellising the tomatoes this week. I remember how lucky I am to be on the farm full time, which we can only manage right now because he works forty hours in town each week, and then comes back here and puts in another twenty-five hours in the garden.
This season our CSA program has nearly thirty members who have paid in advance for a weekly share of the farm’s harvest. One day a week we make deliveries, bringing bags full of freshly picked produce to CSA members at offices around the county (five at Lee bank, three at Riverbrook Residence, and so on). Other members come to us, picking up their share on the farm and stopping to chat about this week’s haul. On Mondays I walk through the fields and decide what will be in that week’s shares. Parsley, check. Radishes– the last of this planting. Kohlrabi needs another week. Plenty of peas!
Wednesday mornings we harvest and I set up the prep station, painstakingly sorting blades of grass and slightly yellowed leaves from the lettuce mix and transferring it to our spiffy new five-gallon salad spinner. When it comes out it is gorgeous, sweeter and fresher and prettier than anything you’d find in a grocery store cooler—unless you shop at the Co-op, that is.
In the evening I go over my day in verbs: weeded, watered, harvested, transplanted, seeded, prepped for sale. There are farmers, whose farms are literally thousands of times bigger than ours, who recount their days in a
single verb; plowed, say, or sprayed, or something else involving long hours on a large tractor. I may be sweaty and sore and tired and a whole lot dirtier, but I don’t envy those farmers.
If running a farm is like riding a roller coaster, then midsummer is that moment halfway through when you’re wide-eyed and can’t quite catch your breath. It’s exhilarating and a little terrifying, and I’m already looking forward to going again