In part three of a series by Tess Tomlinson she discusses the nature of farming and the importance of being able to toggle between delight and loss gracefully, without clinging to either state.
-In many respects, the answers and idols of the questions I’ve been posing are found in the fields in which we work. By definition, farmers must ready themselves to the extent that they can, importing specific and emotional wisdom of many generations, taking relevant precautions using current data, and sourcing advice from neighbors. And, the second part of the definition : farmers must be ready for nothing to go as planned.
I thought of writing to my old boss Kate of Neighborhood Farm, to ask her for examples of this phenomenon but could immediately picture her replying, whilst on her morning cruise through her fields - it happens every day. To watch her move quickly between plant rows, one would imagine her operating with an internal, sophisticated navigation system able to observe, process and translate into action every inch she sees. Perhaps we’ve all seen experts of one kind or another scan their domain and then know exactly how to proceed. That variables descend at random on her land and trickle over in seed packets from Italy make her quickness impressive and crucial. She doesn’t always have a map.
Every year that BAG grows, we enter into the navigation system of another farmer, becoming part of their plans, their surprises, their comfort. No farmer (that’s pretty broad) likes to see whole sections of kale go unharvested but if they have us on speed dial, they may salvage some of the effort and attention before needing to move on to what’s next. Their decisions must be made with clear minds, with minds prepared for and practiced in moving through loss and delight, error and success.
A few days ago, we washed and repacked three pallets of daikon radishes donated by Siena Farms. Then a few days after that, we went back and did it all again. There are something like 700 cases of daikon available to us. Why? Daikon is very good for the soil and some years it must be trendy because some years it sells well. This year wasn’t a daikon year apparently, but the Greater Boston Food Bank will take six pallets and Dylan will spend time trying to find other takers.
Even closer to home than the farmers whom we rely upon, our managers are privy to the winds of fate (sorry) and bounds of time and market, and need to be both informed and open, critical, cautious and joyfully free to say yes and go from there. For them too, decisions must be made with minds prepared for and practiced in moving gracefully through loss and delight.
If we can make it to a place of balanced skill and ease within a context of consorting one on one with circumstance and internal stimuli, can we do it in stride with others who are working with their own versions of balance?-
By Tess Tomlinson
Boston Area Gleaners
91 Martin Street
Acton, MA 01720