Some days, life is blue skies and sunshine and harvesting beautiful produce with a crew of amazing folks. I love that my job with Boston Area Gleaners not only aligns with my values by working to address food waste and food insecurity, but also that it gives me an amazing opportunity to visit farms and connect with more farmers in the region. I've met some of the kindest farmers this summer, and I've had the chance to see some beautiful farms. The seasons are starting to change in New England, though. Summer may hang on for a tad longer, but fall is creeping in. The nights are cooling off, and the days are getting shorter. We started harvesting apples, and I've noticed that the bumble bees are starting to die off for the season.
I know there will be wonderful things this fall, and still so much to be grateful for, but I love the summer and I hate to see it go. Change is inevitable but still hard, and with so much constant upheaval in the world lately, I guess it was nice to be heads down and working to the point of exhaustion in the summer sun. Looking up again is...tiring.
I know it's a privilege to tune out from the news. And I also know that the work that we're doing is 'essential', and plays a major role in getting food to those in need, so I shouldn't devalue it as a simple distraction. But some days when I try to engage and stay aware of what's going on, the news is more exhausting than the farmwork.
Maybe I'm mourning a lot more than the end of the summer. But the long, long days of sunshine helped ease the overwhelm a bit, and I can see the days getting shorter. So I'm trying to hold on a bit, I guess, to the bees and the flowers and the sun. Maybe I can store it up like a battery to pull through the fall and winter, eh?
When I started working at BAG this summer, there was a stretch of time where I felt a little off-kilter. I have been farming since 2013, but last year I made an effort to get a remote desk job in preparation for a US roadtrip my husband and I planned to take this year (new departure date is now TBD). I spent 7 months in a job that didn't suit me, and I went an entire farming season without farming.
So when I jumped into this role, I knew that I knew what I was doing, but there was some dusting off that needed to happen in the archives of my brain. I work surrounded by brilliant, delightful, inquisitive people—my coworkers come from amazing backgrounds and fields of study, and our volunteers are similarly diverse and captivating. Do I always remember the answers to all of their questions? Haha, no, definitely not. I've been honest when I don't know or remember, and I've been so lucky to be in an environment where I can learn as much from the folks around me as I can hope to share with them.
Some days, though, I would have wavered if you asked if I was a farmer. Was I? What if I'd forgotten too much?
Then, one day, two of our apprentices saw a bird they couldn't identify. These are folks that ID trees professionally and know of more birds than I've ever heard of—they know their stuff. I am not a bird person. But one of them said to me "I don't think I need a bird person for this question, I think I need a farmer." And when I asked where they saw the bird, I suggested that it might be a Killdeer, a ground nesting bird that often lives in farm fields. They looked it up and I was right.
So, do I know it all? No. Does any farmer? No. But am I a farmer? Heck. Yes. And I am so glad. I'm so grateful to be doing work that I care deeply about, with kind and incredible people, in such a beautiful place. I hope that wherever you are, you have days full of blue skies and sunshine, and that we can all help each other float on together as the seasons change and the world keeps spinning. Life isn't exactly straightforward these days, but I'm hoping to make the most of it, and excited for BAG to be a big part of that.
By Alex Browning
Boston Area Gleaners
91 Martin Street
Acton, MA 01720