By Andrew Brait of Full Belly Farm, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop
My son’s 8th grade class recently celebrated graduation from middle school with a trip to an amusement park. When asked about the day, he remarked, “It was wild, Dad, kind of like our life on the farm.” If farming and seasonal production could be aptly described as a midway ride, I suppose many might idyllically imagine a merry-go-round. There are others who would easily tag the Whirly-Twirly or the Spinning Teacups. For me though, the farm cycle is definitely a roller coaster ride – not the modern steel loop-de-loop of Six Flags, but the old wooden clackety-clack of the boardwalk. It is certainly a roller coaster of slow, methodical ascent, plateaus, and then whoosh! fast and furious, with enough curves to make you wonder if the whole structure will withstand the demands of torque. Such is the farm year as I see it.
After long, spring months of ascent – turning ground over, preparing beds, propagating greenhouses full of transplants, planting, cultivating, irrigating, fertilizing, keeping insects and disease in balance, and navigating a myriad of weather – April and May brought us a crescendo of bounty. It was a rip roaring, fast haul to the bottom of the slope, with the feel of a skier doing the giant slalom. Just like the screaming riders on a roller coaster, everyone at the farm felt the buzz of excitement and the trepidation of not making it through.
May was, in one word, unrelenting. Wave after wave of crop production demands from planting timelines to harvesting deadlines, pushed to capacity. It was also a month filled with visiting school groups, days of fruit thinning, haying, sheep shearing, butchering, and laying miles and miles of drip tape for thirsty plants. While the approaching months of July, August, and September, may be our busiest and longest months in the year, May takes the prize for having the most divergent demands at once. May 2012 was a month of spectacular abundance (a welcome turn from the previous two years), with dozens of types of leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, roots of every dimension, onions, garlic, peas, potatoes, salads, strawberries, and flowers, flowers, and more flowers. (About now, Dru likes to remind us that “her” flowers float the farm.)
Like all roller coaster rides, June is the place on the track where you catch your breath, take stock of the fact that you did indeed survive the screaming descent, and relax just a bit as you’re tugged back to the top of the awaiting and even bigger peak. All of us at the farm are in those rickety cars making our way back up to the top. While current farm pickins may be on the redundant side (I can hear many of you sighing, “Not cabbage again”), the next exhilarating culinary ride is just over the hill.
Hold on to your hats, folks. Summer is almost here! We promise it will be a most delicious and memorable thrill! Wishing you all the best summer.