Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Farm Journal - Entry 5

Today I got to help Ethan begin work on the stage for the farm party. A flatbed trailer has been used traditionally for this purpose, but this year we are using materials we already have on the farm instead. Both the flatbed studebaker and the old GMC flatbed were backed up against one another on the cover crop nearest the equipment shed. We then started out building a pavilion that will cover the stage and provide shade for the musicians. The pavilion is supported by 2"x4" boards (reclaimed lumber that we had on hand) that we trimmed down to fit inside the slots on the edges of the flatbeds. This afternoon Ethan planned on beginning the crossbeams that would support the tarp we plan to use for the cover. Tomorrow we will build an awning on the front of the stage and hang lights across the front. I am excited about how the pavilion is going to look when we are done. The interesting part is that the flatbeds are at two different heights above the ground, so the stage has two separate levels. It looks a bit odd at first but I think it will make the stage presence better for both bands and create an interesting visual dynamic. Both the Kubota and the Cultivating Tractor will be parked along either side of the stage for added effect. It will be nice for young kids to be able to go sit on them and have pictures taken etc. 
I am somewhat excited about the farm party, but am weary as well. I find it very interesting how  Garden City Harvest has such a small role at the farm throughout most of the year and all of the sudden they swoop in and expect us to spend extra time working for them (for free) to put on a party so that THEY can make MORE money off of our free labor. When speaking of sustainable agriculture and sustainable businesses it seems often forgotten that your business plan must be financially sustainable as well. I look around at many of the small farms surrounding Missoula, and it seems that most of them barely scrape by, and that's with multiple interns providing virtually free labor. Society  claims they value the small sustainable farmer, but I am beginning to see things otherwise. I'm not sure what to make of it. I wish to have a farm of my own someday, but would prefer not to count on free labor to make it run smoothly. I think that there has to be a better way, or at least a more efficient way to make it work and to make a decent living without burning myself out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Farm Journal - Entry 4

It's farm party week! Today is the first day of preparations for the upcoming Farm party on Thursday. This is an annual party in which we invite members of the community to come up and observe the farm, have dinner, dance to live music and celebrate the harvest season. We will have two local bands playing and Josh and Ethan will be barbecuing burgers and zucchini for nearly seven hundred people. Part of my duties today included harvesting potatoes and onions that will be used for potato salad. We collected 150 pounds of potatoes and 75 walla-walla and ailsa craig onions and took them to "Two Sisters Catering" downtown. I also helped harvest for Mobile Market again today, although the numbers seemed unusually small. We brought in our first tomato harvest today as well for CSA, which is exciting. I am actually willing to try a farm fresh tomato this summer after Josh told me that they taste like sunshine. It wouldn't be the first time I've found myself pleasantly surprised this summer. I've never been a huge fan of raw onions, but somehow found myself eating a sweet onion as if it were an ice cream cone.
The mornings are slowly growing cooler, and I can feel the height of summer reluctantly slipping into the past. I feel as though the mood of the farm has changed. As people begin to prepare for the start of school, I can sense the anxiety in the air. The group seems more on edge, and I am not sure if that is due in part to the upcoming party, or the end of summer. Probably a combination of both. The air around the farm is hazy against the clear blue sky. Fires in the bitterroot spill their remains into the atmosphere. Our cabbage patch is alight with hundreds of white butterflies. They look beautiful to the lay man, but to the farmer their appearance is much less welcome. The flittering white creatures bury their eggs in the soil, which become grubs that will eat our cabbage, our labor of love. Such is the fight that every farmer must face I suppose. In the way that we choose to work the land, the challenge is ever greater, but the reward is definitely worth the struggle in my humble opinion. 

Farm Journal - Entry 3

Today is my first day back on the farm after being sick for the weekend. I spent the first part of the morning helping out Larry Nesky at the University Dining Services garden down at the Lommason center. We loaded up two pickup trucks with compost/manure for him to use and began some sheet composting down at the garden. Jesse from youth harvest came along and helped out. I am amazed at how fast the dining services garden has expanded, it really looks terrific. It is refreshing to know that there are faculty members within dining services that support our quest to supply students with fresh, locally grown foods. After we returned I set up some irrigation line and then proceeded to trellis tomatoes down in the "mediterranean rock field". Many of our plants were ravaged about a week and a half ago by an intense hale storm that hit the farm. It was a really random occurrence, as most of Missoula saw little to no hale, while the farm had nearly marble sized hale for about ten minutes. Many of our broad-leafed vegetables were damaged, especially the chard and cabbage. Surprisingly our pumpkins were dented pretty badly as well. Thankfully we should have enough remaining vegetables to  last the rest of our CSA season. We recently planted more salad mix to help make up for some that we lost, and we have another succession of peas in the lower field that is coming up. Tomatoes will be coming into ripeness soon, and our melons should be ready within a month or so if they are not too badly damaged.
It has been a somewhat stressful time at the farm due to these setbacks, but I view this as another learning experience for someone who is interested in farming.

Farm Journal - Entry 2

I spent most of the morning weeding our lower field, lovingly known as the "mediterranean rock field". It is dry and full of baseball sized rocks that make spading and tilling quite a chore. We have tomatoes and peppers planted there that are beginning to finally come to fruition, but they were nearly impossible to see beneath the towering pigweed, bindweed and napweed that fill the fertile ground. I find mornings such as this to be boring at times, because I am doing one repetitive activity for hours on end. I find that I enjoy my time much more when I can split it up between multiple groups of people and activities. I do feel however, that the sense of community within the interns has grown to the point that even repetitive mornings can be enjoyable. The conversation is often rich and colorful, which keeps things interesting and usually passes the time quickly. 
Yesterday I spent the first part of my morning harvesting multiple crops for the Youth Harvest's "mobile market". It was nice to get to hop around and harvest different crops relatively quickly. I think that the mobile market is a fascinating program, and would like to try and get involved with it for an afternoon or two. After the mobile market harvesting I harvested broccoli for the remainder of the morning. I had no idea that broccoli plants grew to be so large, and I find it funny that we grow such large plants to use such a small section of them. i see waste all over the farm in terms of parts of vegetables that we do not use - for whatever reason that may be. Although I am sure that the pigs appreciate all of our food scraps, I feel that there has to be a way to use more of the plants than we do. 
I know that I have learned a lot on the farm since I began working here in February, and I will continue to learn well into the Fall harvest season. I do, however, wish that there was more instruction on the inner-workings of the farm and why we do certain things when we do them. I often feel like a simple laborer, told to go do things without a reason, instead of the student that I am paying and working hard to be. This is nobody's fault in particular, I just wish that we could spend more time in the "classroom" mode that we usually have on Friday mornings. I learn a lot from the lectures and conversations that we have during those short periods of time.