Wednesday, December 30, 2009

new years resolution: utilize the blog

i'm getting a head start on 2010 with re-engaging the blog.
so hello again, you lovely readers!
it's a thrill to be back writing and expressing my thoughts,
but it's even more of a thrill, i have to admit, to be back at the farm.
as i turned off of the 101 and drove into camarillo early this morning,
i was overcome with emotion.
the hills were covered in fog,
the migrant farmers were out harvesting strawberries,
and i was taking stock of the changes that had occurred in the landscape during my absence.
the plastic had been removed from some of the strawberry beds,
the artichokes had been tilled under off of Lewis and Las Posas,
and there were entire fields of celery that had been harvested,
leaving a canvas of soil strewn with discarded stalks and leaves.
The emotion that came, so unexpectedly, was joy
for the gift of living and working in a land where the landscape constantly changes,
where the fields are green and growing all year round,
where home is a place of unconditional love and peaceful communication,
where the term "boss" can be replaced with "friend,"
where our job is work, work that we all love.
the realization was unmistakeable:
i love this place
(in a way i have never loved anywhere else before).
i remember having a similar realization after living several months in bolivia.
it also came early in the morning after returning from a trip.
i was in a taxi, driving through the city of cochabamba
as folks were beginning their morning rituals.
boarding the bus,
stopping on the street to purchase maté de coca and salteñas,
greeting neighbors as they walked to work...
i looked around, and up at the rim of the canyon we were ascending,
and i knew that i was going to miss this place, these people.
my time there was neither picturesque nor easy,
but it became a part of me.
i continue walk to the rhythm of that city,
as i search for and remember its bright colors.
i grew to love it. i miss it in this moment.
but i was not transformed by it.
my parents' home made me.
my time in los angeles broke me.
bolivia gave me new eyes.
and i have been re-formed here, at the farm.
it is here and now that i am home.
so good to be back.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Our CSA box


Last Wednesday, Erynn and I filled baskets with vegetables to take to restaurants in Ventura along with an invitation to a chef's tasting out in our field in January. Looking at the baskets, I was struck again with how beautiful our produce looks!

Here's one of the pictures I took for the chef's invitation. And since we've never posted the contents of our CSA box; here's what was in our box last week:

Beets, carrots, shelling peas, radishes, broccoli, parsley, kale, swiss chard, cilantro, fennel, mustard greens, ruby lettuce, and calendula. Next week's additions: a surprise fruit! (though not certified organic... it's from our backyard.)


Click this http://www.jointhefarm.com/csaNews.html for a link to all CSA newsletters, which list what's in the box each week.

Hammock meditation


WE have a new hammock at the farm! And, it's simply lovely!

Sitting in the hammock, I'm reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh's hammock meditations as well as of our own desire (us sisterfriends) to have a field meditation. Thanks to the visiting Nuns for the encouragement!

Here's what I have so far:

Breathing in the fresh and simple language of the earth’s goodness;
Breathing out, I listen and welcome her touch as I touch her.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NUNS!

In high school I spent some time at the Sisters of Notre Dame convent adjacent to my school. The nuns sent an open invitation to all the La Reina girls and I was one of about 3 girls who accepted. I thoroughly enjoyed Sister Antoinette Marie and Sr. Lisa. They incorporated eastern and indigenous prayer rituals in our class prayers and were active in promoting justice and education through projects in Africa. Without realizing it at the time, the nuns embodied the type of Christianity it would take me 10 years to believe in being and actively cultivate. Finding God in all areas of Creation, loving inclusively, serving those in need, and finding communities that foster these ways of living.

I was reminded of my wonderful experiences with nuns when a group of Maryknoll sisters came for a farm visit last Sunday. These women are incredible. They've lived all over the world, built hospitals and schools, been incarcerated in China, contracted tuberculosis in Mexico, and are now staying in Monrovia.

My favorite part of their visit was their sharing of their daily spiritual practices. Each mentioned ways they pause to connect with God in prayer. Gloria practices centering prayer, Maureen sits on the ground, faces the mountains, and breathes in meditation, Moira cultivates her presence in the now by reading spiritual literature, Pauline sits in the sun in reflection and repeats a simple word or phrase until she has totally absorbed its meaning, Pat uses eastern meditations she learned while living in Asia. All of these women have engaged their spirituality through their experiences living abroad, just as I have learned to engage my spirituality through my experiences here on the farm.

What also struck me about these women, besides their amazing stories, was their lightness of heart and joy in being. When we toured the field they were absolutely delighted to pull on rubber boots, tromp through mud, and try all the produce (dirt and all). During our 1st Annual Christmas Sing-Along, they gleefully drank cheery eggnog, sang along, played instruments, and even got up to dance along to the music.














Gloria, a self-proclaimed "Latin from Manhattan" is as shocked as we were to see little rabbit bites in our geode squash.




Grace, a Catholic Worker, shows Pauline, Moira, and Maureen our mildewy spinach.


They were even good sports when their car broke down on the way home. Some Catholic Workers provided the transportation in a very beat up van which ran out of gas and overheated not even 20 minutes away from the farm. Of course, the sisters took the break down in stride and retold the story with grace and humor.

Days after their visit, I am realizing a connection I feel to these women, a few generations my senior. These women have spent a lifetime doing things I've only recently started to feel urges to do. They've made decisions to forgo traditional societal ways to live in communities of women who create powerful political, social, and spiritual changes throughout the world. I'm starting in my own familiar corner of the world and my steps are nowhere near as powerful or profound as the lives of these women. But, if my steps follow in the spirit of their footsteps, my path is looking good.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

...for the journey

Part of celebrating the holidays for the ATFP was our Christmas party at Duke's in Malibu (which just happened to coincide with the 4-month anniversary of the start of the project).


In addition to the wonderful dinner, I was sent off to spend three weeks with my family with (what else)...a loaf of bread

Paul, the baker, assured me that it contained no trace of whole wheat flour and plenty of sugar. It's delicious.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Joining forces

Togetherness. We five women or womyn if you will are a strong force together. Yesterday, Casey and I supported Sarah's work with Ventura County Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

And, last week, as you may have read, we supported Casey's Christmas Choir.




But, overall, I guess it's the little things that matter more and more. We help each other pause and be present and enjoy the simple moments of farm life.




Monday, December 7, 2009

Out of Reach

Click on the link below for an article in the San Francisco Chronicle called "Out of Reach: How the sustainable local food movement neglects poor workers and eaters." It's probably the best article I've read that addresses the shortcomings in the food movements of late. Even the comments are good.

http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=9490&volume_id=452&issue_id=461&volume_num=44&issue_num=09

The critique is challenging here - how can we keep thinking and asking ourselves how our farm can make healthy, organic produce available to all, regardless of class?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Intentional Community", Community as family

I remember the thrill I felt when I read the words "intentional community" in the Abundant Table Farm Project's description earlier this year before I applied. It's a serious buzzword these days, but I'm still trying to understand what exactly an "intentional" community is, and how we fall into that definition.

We are 5 single, unrelated, post-college/ grad school women, most of whom did not know one another previously. We share our food, our house, and our work. I suppose these decisions were intentional on our part, but also just necessary and natural.

The words "intentional community" sound almost too stuffy for who I think we are. Maybe they're even overly noble. We're just living a year of life together, and I'm growing accustomed to the very natural rhythms of this year. Here are a few examples of the rhythms that have developed, from the vantage point of month 4: We...

- Sit around the breakfast table for an early morning coffee (or tea) and read the newspaper together before dividing up farm work. We sit around the lunch table and eat again. We sit around the dinner table and... yes, you guessed it. We eat most meals together - a different person cooks each night. Food binds us in many ways.

-Share a morning devotion/ meditation together before the work begins.

-Have weekly house meetings - when we do both practical tasks like chore assignments and also ask get-in-touch-with-your-feelings questions like, "have any boundaries been crossed this week that you haven't been able to communicate?" and, "what was something that challenged you this week?"

-Do things that recognize our individual personalities and interests, like salsa dancing, or capoeira, or instructing yoga, or watching a movie, or singing with a Broadway-wannabe choir, or making wreaths :)

-End (and begin) the week in corporate worship with the little house church that gathers in our home to share liturgy, prayers, the ritual of Eucharist, and a potluck.

These patterns that mark our days don't feel motivated by a conscious intentionality. I'd like to think of the rhythms that have developed as emerging out of a deeper need for family. So maybe the intentional part of our community is simply that we purposefully chose to live together. After looking over that list I just wrote above, we live as a family in a way, albeit a different kind of family than people are used to seeing and experiencing. Our community's daily patterns serve to deepen our experience as a family - eating a common meal, taking care of the house and land, and worshiping together. For 5 single, unrelated women, the definition of what family can mean has grown deeper.

You may have noticed that we have a special name for our unique relationships with one another: "sisterfriend." That's one beautiful word you won't find in the dictionary, and it eloquently fills the counter-cultural, undefined spaces between us. Co-worker, friend, loved one, kin.

That Holiday Feeling

It seems the farm has been a-buzz with many guests and a good deal of holiday warmth.
It's such a nurturing place, in fact, we've taken to growing children here too.
And, of course, interpretive dancing is encouraged.
And, all creatures are welcomed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

this year I'm thankful for...

Since it's that time of year, I figured I could take a moment to brag on my sisterfriends. In the background of our 3.5 months living together has been the question "what exactly does it mean for us to be an intentional community?" In the last few weeks I've experienced that community in an abundance of support and creativity. I've spent a lot of time recently applying for a scholarship to study in the UK next year. To celebrate the submission of my written application Erynn prepared a delicious dinner that was...not exactly English, but at least vaguely European (with tea, crumpets, and Belgian chocolate ice cream for dessert). Last week as I prepared for the interview portion of the application, I was surprised in my pajamas one morning by all four sisterfriends, dressed in their professional clothes and doing their best to look intimidating, who proceeded to grill me for half an hour. Erynn and Katerina were gracious enough to take me shopping to buy my first suit (and find the ruffliest bright pink tops to go with it), and everyone sent me off to the interview in Chicago with notes of encouragement, hugs, and a music mix. And while I didn't get the scholarship, there was still champagne to celebrate and a theatrical account of the retreat I missed performed by Erynn and Kat (narrated by Sarah Nolan with music by Casey) when I returned.

I'm thankful for them!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An event to remember

Since I didn't blog last week, I thought I'd post a few pictures and highlights from an event this past Sunday that was hosted by Join the Farm! and the organizations that I work for in a side-internship, House Farm Workers (HFW), and Ventura County Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (VC CLUE). It was wonderful! About 125-150 farmworkers and other community members came out to the farm for an inter-faith Thanksgiving service out in our field. The purpose of the event was to give thanks for the land, the harvest, and the work of farmworkers in Ventura County, as well as to eat together as a community in a BIG OL' potluck celebration. After the potluck in our backyard, we screened "A Home of Their Own," a film from the perspective of the children of farmworkers on their experiences moving from sub-standard to affordable housing at Villa Cesar Chavez, a housing development (about 4 miles from our house) for farmworkers.

Highlights:
- Farmworkers, clergy and laity from different faiths speaking from the flatbed of an agricultural trailer/ tractor with the glow of sunset over the field behind them
- At least 5 languages spoken during the prayer service - Chumash, Arabic, Spanish, English, and Mixteco
- People bringing a dish from their family's tradition
- 3-4 huge vats of Postole soup made by the women of Villa Cesar Chavez
-kids from Villa Cesar Chavez who gleefully yelled out the names of the friends they recognized during the film
-This quote from the movie: “When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the fields is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding, sheltering and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick.” -Cesar Chavez
-That people came together who might not have otherwise connected - from different classes, faith traditions, ages, and political views. And the feeling of unity that resulted.

Farm workers give a blessing in Spanish and Mixteco

Rev. Guthrie offers a prayer for the workers

A beautiful sunset over the fields

Joining hands for prayer circles

Thanks to Casey for the pictures!

A thanksgiving reflection



What does it mean to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the U.S. of A.? Family get-togethers, turkeys, pumpkin pies, and cornucopias come to mind. And kindergartners acting out the story of the pilgrims and the Indians with cute, not very PC costumes. As I remember the story, the European immigrants arrived in the New World unprepared for winter and were dependent upon the wealthier Native Americans for their survival.

What if we re-told the story in modern times? Here's what I imagine the story might sound like: "Pilgrims" come to the New World looking for a better life, but instead of being given corn to plant (well, in this story they pretty much gave up on planting corn after cheap, subsidized New World corn flooded the market and made it impossible to make a living on corn, which is partly why they came here in the first place), these pilgrims become laborers in the fields and orchards of the wealthier "natives." Not enough of the natives want to do that kind of work anyway. Yet ironically, in this story, the dependence goes both ways. The pilgrims, as I have been calling the immigrants who are mostly from Mexico, are obviously dependent upon the U.S. for labor and a means to support their families. Yet this time around, the "natives," the majority of people living in the U.S., are also dependent upon the immigrant population to survive. Most Americans are utterly dependent, in the most basic way, on the food harvested by the immigrant farm workers in this country.

As in the fabled first Thanksgiving, how can we acknowledge and give thanks to and for those who have supplied our food? I think that this holiday is the perfect time to acknowledge how the cranberries in that stuffing got there - the hands they passed through from bush to basket to table. Pause to reflect on the strawberry jam on the dinner rolls - do you know that farm workers bend over, rarely straightening, in table position for over 9 hours every day in the strawberry rows? I didn't, at least not before I moved to the Oxnard area, where there's huge strawberry industry and I pass farm workers doubled over daily. And, I might add, after working only about 5 hours a day in our field, I feel true respect for the workers next door.

Yet during the Thanksgiving event this past Sunday, when the inter-faith community gathered to pray with and for farm workers, I realized that acknowledgment, respect, and thanks-giving for their labor only go so far. Farmworkers in Ventura County, as in many other counties nationwide, live in over-crowded sheds, laundry rooms, and garages because the annual cost of rent for an apartment is higher than a year's salary (about $15,000, usually less). Maria, a farmworker in Oxnard who I met this Sunday, told me that she has no heat, no running water, and no electricity where she lives. How can this be?! This is where acknowledgment and respect fall short. In a mutually dependent relationship, both parties must not only value the contribution of the other, but care for their well-being. As I become more and more familiar with the issues faced by most farmworkers - inadequate housing, low wages, and lack of access to basic resources, the need for justice is painfully apparent.

At this point, the question, "What can I do?" comes to mind. First, relationship comes to mind. That's easier for me to say, I'm sure, in an area populated with farm workers. It's difficult for most, in a country where the average plateful of food travels over 1,000 miles to reach the table. Hmm, I'll have to think about that. Let me know any ideas...

Here's a possibility that came to my attention through an email last week:
Remember and honor farmworkers this Thanksgiving season by urging Stop & Shop, Giant, Publix, Ralph’s, Kroger and other Kroger-owned grocery chains (City Market, Dillons, Food 4 Less, Foods Co., Fred Meyer, Fry's, Gerbes, Hilander, Jay C, King Soopers, Owen's, Pay Less, QFC, Scott's, Smith's) to address the sub-poverty wages, unjust working conditions and human rights abuses faced by farmworkers who harvest their tomatoes. See http://www.allianceforfairfood.org/2009supermarket.html for more information on writing a letter to the manager of a store near you (chances are there is one near you).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

RETREAT!

Us farmers took a few days to relax in Santa Barbara as part of our program. Here are some photographs of the lovely place we stayed!

the view from the back porch








a walk to the mission








the autumn leaves on the wall








one of my favorite lawns











some of the books (some saved from the mt. calvary fire?) in their library







the tree with arm branches

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Art at the farm

For a good long while, the farmhouse was graced with the presence of a local artist's work. Below is Jose Zuniga's piece on Frida. I absolutely love it!
Jose inspired me to create some of my own art, and here's my "Golondrina."


But, this blog is on more than "fine art"; it's a showcase of some of the art out in the fields. Below, "Rainbow Chard with a Fennel Background."
Below, "Young Women in the corn."

learning standard

Oh, the odd calculations of the insurance industry (auto, in this case). Apparently the insurance gods would rather we interns (with levels of stick-shift driving experiencing ranging from years to none) lurch around in the big white unpredictable farm pick-up truck to deliver our veggies than use our own vehicles for the job. Since Cristy Rose and Katerina weren't particularly keen on doing every one of our deliveries, lessons in the truck have commenced.

I, for one, have no excuse for my poor stick driving. Various patient individuals have taught me (at great expense to their nerves and their tires) how to drive a standard several times in the last few years. It hasn't really stuck.

And the farm pick-up adds some additional excitement. Should I manage not to stall while starting, I might have the stick shift knob come off, leaving me in an unpleasant place between first and second gears. If I adjust the rear-view mirror to better view the impatient traffic behind me, it may come off in my hand. Once I make it out to the highway, the truck might lurch to a halt all by itself due to some mysterious configuration of front and rear gas tanks which can be empty without anyone realizing (you guessed it - the gas gauge doesn't work; neither does the speedometer). And how about when I get fed up and want to get out? The door handle, like the stick-shift knob and rear-view mirror, comes off in my hand.

And yes, Erynn and I definitely fight over opportunities to drive it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Five loaves, two fish

While reading through some passages in the Bible's book of Matthew, I got stuck on Matthew 14:13-21, the story that inspired our project's name and the pendants that each of us were given at our house blessing earlier this year (picture below).


In the story, Jesus seeks some time alone to process the violent death of his friend John. He goes away to a secluded spot, only to be followed by crowds of people who need healing. Jesus is moved in his gut with compassion when he sees the people, and cares for them physically and emotionally. It starts getting late, and the disciples get anxious. Being practical thinkers, they want to send the crowds away so the people can get something to eat. Jesus responds that the disciples should feed them. He takes the 5 loaves of bread and the two fish that the disciples have on hand, gives thanks for it, and passes it back to his probably incredulous followers. Then the disciples take this meager portion and distribute it out to well over 5,000 people. Afterward, they have to use twelve baskets to collect the abundant leftovers from the meal.

Two weeks ago, all of us interns underwent a couple of particularly stressful days. It was a time defined by worry about our project's future and its success, a time when our inadequacies and limitations became apparent. So for the past two weeks, I remained with this story, returning and finding new meaning in it.

What continues to strike me is that Jesus accepts scarcity, he even asks for it. He doesn't try to solve it by sending the people away. Nor does he ignore the people's need, continuing healing despite everyone's hunger. He accepts the poverty of what is offered, gives thanks for what he receives, and then gives the meager food back to the disciples to distribute, now transformed into abundance. This chain of giving and receiving - giving to God, giving thanks, then receiving back from God - seems so relevant to our project here.

Such an abundance of vegetables grow here, and yet I think we still feel the squeeze of scarcity. We interns are often poor in terms of our time, our finances, and just our ability to be up-to-par as new farmers in terms of production, knowledge, and skills! How will these things, our five loaves and two fish, become enough for hundreds beyond our imagining? How can we name our scarcity before God and others, and, I wonder, what will its transformation into abundance look like?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Systematize, yo...

So, Join the Farm! is growing (read this again with a very happy tone). Our field is in full production swing. Our CSA program is 45 subscriptions strong. This week will be our 3rd week in the Oxnard Farmer's Market. We've gone from, "Well, isn't this little project fuuun!" to "Oh man, we are really doing this! This is farming!" So as we've grown, we've developed systems that help us harvest more efficiently, keep track of what's been harvested and where it has gone, and what types of materials we've treated our crops with and when. We keep all our records in our Documentation Binder which we had to show to CCOF, our 3rd party organic certifier. How have we managed to increase efficiency and keep fantastic records? We've SYSTEMATIZED. I LOVE systematizing (my mom says this is because I like to figure out how to do as little work as I have to, which I take as working efficiently). I enjoy systematizing so much, I created a little rap about it, a nod of sorts to a genre I find entirely mockable. So sit back, relax, and enjoy. *I'd like to thank Casey, my fly girl beat boxing in the background and Katerina, my videographer and rap motivator. Couldn't have done it without you guys!*

video

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

what would you feed a chicken?

My part of this weekend's harvest festivities was guiding much anticipated tours of the chickens' new outdoor accommodations.



One of the most important questions is: what do they eat? Since grow mash (corn based, which is the bulk of the chicks' diet) isn't particularly exciting, we let the kids give the chickens a treat - worms from the vermiculture bin...



They even got to feed the chickens some rocks (which the chickens need to swallow to keep in their crop to grind up their food before they digest it since they don't have teeth).



Despite repeated offers, however, the kids would not feed ladybugs from the recently harvested lima bean fields to the chickens.

Maybe understandable if you happen to be dressed as a ladybug for Halloween...

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos at the Farm!

We had an exciting event here at the farm this past Saturday. To celebrate Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, we brought out the Fall flair and invited the community to come on over. It was really lovely.
Here's me and our little sister-friends.
Sarah and Julie
Everyone in the jolly jumper!
Our lovely subscribers
And our altar inside the farmhouse. I put up a photograph of my great-grandmother Rose and of my cousin, Heather. I love that the altar reminds me to listen to their stories.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Yoga

For this post, I'm going to start with some blatant advertising because I know Sarah wouldn't do it for herself. (But I have her permission :)

Perfect poster photo:
Yoga. 5:30 p.m. every Monday at the Farm, 4720 E. Hueneme Road. Taught by the farmer - turned-yoga-instructor-who-can-do-awesome-moves-like-handstands-on-wet-sand Sarah Bagge.


Oliver joins us for some deep relaxation

Sarah's a self-taught instructor after taking a lot of yoga classes during college and practicing crane pose until she can practically do it on her pinky fingers. I can barely stay in "tree pose" (standing with one foot on the ground) without toppling over, but I go to Sarah's classes and am slowly feeling my balance improving along with focus and stamina. For me, though, practicing yoga is not just about getting more flexible or stretching some sore muscles after long hours in the field, though that's certainly a plus.

I always found walking to be a prayerful kind of activity, and after being introduced to yoga by my mom a few years ago, I realized how important times of meditative movement are in my life. Yoga teaches me to pray with my whole self, not just my thoughts. It brings me through a flow of increasingly challenging positions - drawing me to a place of deep listening. I listen to the ways my legs tell me I can push further into a stretch, and I must listen when they tell me to stop and rest.

Someone told me once that attentiveness is the highest form of prayer. Through focused attention on the elemental motions of my existence: breathing in, breathing out, standing, lying down, I remember that God speaks and lives in and through us in these basic acts. God communicates with me through my body and through my attentiveness to the many physical senses. How often am I present and engaged enough to hear and feel God through the breath of air filling my lungs, the blessing of strong legs lifting me to my feet, through the way the muscles in the inner corners of my eyes relax their tightness at night, before I sleep? Regrettably, not very often.
A prayer my friend Amy once posted in our room that I love says,

"Lord, be in our seeing, our hearing,
in our knowing, and in our understanding today and everyday..."

and be in our all our daily movements as well.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rethinking family: Living Communally

A big part of the Abundant Table Farm Project is simply this: being (living, working, sharing, eating, cooking, cleaning, driving, meeting, enjoying, singing, communicating, crying, stressing, fearing, waking, pausing) together.

And, as you all know, intentionally doing all that together takes time, energy, and


....much love, forgiveness, and grace.

It's a beautiful thing. Here's some fotografias.
The Oxnard Farmers' Market








Early rise for the busiest day so far: CSA, Farmers' Market, Volunteer Orientation, Farm Stand, etc!







Ojai Folk Music Hootenanny








Picking up Erynn and the goods before delivery








Meeting with Farmer Paul with Food Share in the background








Sarah Nolan giving us some needed harvesting training











Dinner at "Our Beach"








The kiddos come to visit: Pizza, Hide n Seek, dance party

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Meet your field!

I spent some time today spraying alone in the field. Right before I left for the field I went to grab my ipod, which was charging in my computer. I failed to notice, when I plugged my ipod into my computer, that my computer was, in fact, not on. So, my ipod had not charged. I enjoy listening to music and NPR in the field, so I was slightly miffed. But, the sun was setting, my mood was pleasant, and I was looking forward to alone time in the field.

Walking and spraying in silence in the field gave me some time to realize that our 10 acres have sections with distinctive personalities! So let me introduce you to your field...

Section D rows 44-23. These are the front rows closest to our farmhouse. They are the warm, wonderfully fitting sweater rows. We know them, we love them, and even though sometimes we didn't give them the attention we should have, they are so good to us in return. This was the first section planted, before the interns had moved in. We loved seeing everything sprout and waited excitedly for things to come up we recognized. I have a particular affection for this section, because it welcomed me into farming. This section revealed what bean sprouts look like. The bean plants in turn showed me how they flower and turn into seed pods. I got to see how bean plants produce-prolifically. Even when the bean plant is uprooted those bean pods amazingly continue to form and grow. I know everything in this section: beans, squash varieties, spinach, arugula, ruby lettuce, romaine, beets, and cilantro. Some of the lettuces have lived a life cycle and will tilled under. This section also gave me a crash course on insects-the good, the bad, and the disgusting. Section D rows 44-23 and I have been through a lot together. I hacked the spinach here before I knew how to cut it properly. It showed me that stinging nettle has a very literal name that should be heeded. All we've been through together and this section is still producing some beautiful produce.

Section D rows 22-1 Ah yes, the thinking section. Compared to his neighbor section, the aforementioned section, this section only started producing recently. Before it started producing I'd be in this section and look over at neighbor D, growing and producing like crazy, and think, "all right already, let's get growing." It wasn't planted much after the other rows in D and I started imagining reasons for its delayed growth. I'd picture the carrots and broccoli trying so hard to pop up out of the ground with their arms crossed and brows furrowed in concentration. Then I pictured them little academics calculating the perfect time to pop up. At least the carrots have completed their calculations-they've all popped through the ground at the same time! It is also important to note there is a mini-jungle in the thinking section. Four rows of corn. Corn, to me, is a section (jungle) within a section. It makes me nervous and I don't go in there. After the corn, there are some rows of fennel, calendula (edible flowers), and cucumbers. While I am much more comfortable in these rows now, for a long period of time this area repelled me a bit. Fennel and calendula? Yeah, do you know what those are? And cucumbers, well they just look weird growing-although they've grown on me, but you'll have to wait to section C row 22 to find out why...

Section C rows 44-23. The workhorse section. In this section there are 16 rows dedicated to tomatoes (8 rows of actual plantings, but they bush out and need a row spaced in between). This is as close to "mono-crop farming" as we come. These tomatoes, as all mono-crops appear to be to me, are like incredible workhorses. Just rows of tomatoes, coming up, moving up and out, going, spreading, continuing. All working in unison, getting it done. The tomatoes are followed by green onions. Here, I get the sensation of a high note in an orchestra. The tomatoes are trombones-deep, continuous; and the green onions are these whimsical green stalks shooting out of the ground-flutes hitting sharp high notes!

Sections C rows 22-1 The surprising section. The second part of the front half (the B and A section) are empty beds (ha, the land of opportunity!), so this section is then end of the front section. I rarely went down here until recently-all the work was in the other parts. But, now that I am spending more time here, I am surprised at how this stuff just crept up on us and grew! Just weeks ago I swear this section was half empty and now it has taken off, grown, and is producing! What a surprise! Also, in this section I discovered cucumbers creeping into the basil and climbing up the basil stalks! Now, before cucumbers were creepy with their spreading vines sprawling across dirt. But not in the basil! No, the cucumbers were just looking for friends. Seriously, it looked like the cucumbers were just leaning on the basil, spreading some love, draping an arm in friendship. Seeing this changed my cucumber world. Surprising.

Next week. We meet the back part of the field. dun, dun, dunnn....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

domestic violence awareness month at the farm

Our Program Coordinator, Sarah Nolan, just informed me that the majority of farmers out there are women even though we often think of the guy-farmer. Certainly, this is the case on our farm. We are five women living on a farm, and we are learning how to farm day by day. First the planting, then the weeding, then the pest control, then the harvesting, and then the cooking.

Our bodies are growing stronger ....as are our hearts....because the most basic part of our work is learning to respect the earth from which we came -- our Mother Earth. It's a very basic concept: we live in a world that encourages hierarchical dualism where the rational mind, the male, quantity, heaven ... over the heart, the female, quality/relational, and the earth/nature. It makes sense to me that after 5000 or more years of this way of thinking, us human beings have forgotten to respect the earth and the food that comes from it. And, you can see where I'm going, we've lost respect for women along the way.

Over this last month, which just happened to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I've been called to recognize and pay attention to DV in the lives of our community members here at the farm. My own home culture NEVER talks about DV, but I've cultivated a Break the Silence sub-culture around me with my work at the Sexual Assault Crisis Agency and Interval House (http://www.intervalhouse.org/)and the Women's Resource Center at CSU, Long Beach (http://www.csulb.edu/divisions/students/wrc/).

Nevertheless, I'm surprised with how frankly and openly DV is spoken of here in the culture of Ventura County. No hush, no nada -- it just is and happens often and people are tired of it, so they talk about it a lot. The stories I've heard -- of growing up with an angry and abusive father and/or husband -- have just floored me, and in the midst of the discussions, I've cried.

BUT! something about respecting the earth that I am working with has given me HOPE! (as is our Non-Violent Communication Workshops!) My relationship with the land is becoming a prayer that change is and that in my relationships, we can manifest our dream of a world without hierarchy, without privilege, without oppression. A community where love is valued more than power and relationships and empathy is given more attention than control and production.