In The Nick of Time

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Courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop

I’m trying to make sense of time. It is after all, the end of another farm year. If we agree that “time flies” we must concur that time really is all relative. Did every day or week or month clock out at the same pace? Was it a straight line or sine wave? Recently one of our farm interns casually called me middle aged. She said it so matter-of-factly, so definitively, “duh, you’re old.” And then there’s the constant reminder from my kids. As is so often the case, my teen and tween kids often can’t quite differentiate my timeline and experiences from those of the dinosaurs, but that’s another issue entirely. As I turn 46 this week, forgive my indulgence as I try to take stock of and celebrate just how relative time is.

I don’t have clue if 46 is middle aged or not. I really don’t! On one hand I think I’m basically the same physical and mental guy I’ve been my whole adult life, while on the other hand, I know that I hear myself sounding like a broken record (I think I’m dating myself here) trying to solicit sympathy from my wife about chronic aches and pains. I sure hope that’s not the definition of middle age. Most days though I’d like to believe I can still work circles around the younger folks at the farm. Lord knows I’ve had a lot more practice. On other days though, I think more about working smarter, not necessarily harder.

Coincidently, 46 marks my 25th year in farming, nearly 20 of which have been as part of Full Belly Farm. Now doesn’t that sound weird! (There’s that relativity bit again.) I hope that I’m not even at my halfway point in my working life, and yet 25 years of farming feels simultaneously like a flash in the pan and like I’ve been nursing that same tasty beer for a while. It feels like it’s just a few years back that I was that 21-year old fellow cultivating carrots for the first time on an ancient Allis Chalmers tractor, deep in the cool green summer of a Vermont truck farm. How long ago was it when I first spent season after greenhouse season learning the near snake charming tricks of teasing tomatoes from cool earth, draping and winding twine, tomatoes reaching for the sun, finally bearing fruit after miraculous fruit? Have I ever really stopped marveling at the way the radical of a germinating seed thrusts toward the center of the earth as voraciously as the cotyledons blaze with solar energy?

Twenty-five years of farming keeps these and an accumulation of experiences close at hand, because we revisit them repeatedly on an annual basis. My biological clock is an annual one, repeating so many of the same ticks and tocks of season. Farming has shaped as real a cyclical calendar as I can come to understand. Therefore, I’d expect time to be methodical and even predictable. It’s curious that this is not how time has played out.

The miracle of seed to sustenance feels as new to me as it did the first time I planted sugar snap peas in recently thawed early spring ground or pulled jungles out of weedy broccoli wondering if they would persevere, or thrilled at splitting a sun soaked watermelon, to grab at its sticky, warm heart. Those experiences, like so many others have become common threads in fabric with which I cloak myself. It’s kind of like putting on the same baseball cap every morning as you walk out into the day’s light. Over time, these life experiences only seem to become richer unlike my threadbare hat.

But I think I’ve lost track of time. The greatest part of knowing your life’s work, and perhaps the luckiest, is coming to that place where there really isn’t any distinction between “work” and “just what one does.” Time slips away. With any engaging venture, the more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. As is so often the case when we are swept away in our pursuits, farming has made time morph into something so much grander than just marks on a line.

From all of us here at the farm, thank you all for your enthusiasm and patronage, allowing us to do so very much more than just mark time on this farm and fertile piece of earth.

In the nick of time, yours truly,

Andrew Brait of Full Belly Farm



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