Stewardship and the Presence of Silence

What a crazy week?!! Last week (on May 5th) the Spring semester ended for UTK students which means this has been the official first week of working full time on the farm for the interns. Um yeah… crazy. So in this week we have had 1 farmer’s market, 3 CSA drop-off days, harvested over 60 pounds of kale, sun burned approximately 3 zig-zag shapes on my back, planted around 900 feet of corn, 4 varieties of tomatoes, 200 feet of okra, and that doesn’t even begin to cover it! And as much as has happened this week there is still that moment each day when I look up and realize how lucky I am. Don’t get me wrong, farming is hard. I am burned, sore, and exhausted with a deadline of planting dates constantly in the back of my mind and  a hopeful eye searching for a rain cloud (19 days since the last rain). This isn’t easy, but there is nothing more beautiful then looking up and realizing that the wind is blowing the rye in the field, the sun is moving the leaves as the morning dew evaporates, and the silence. Oh the blessed silence. This is something beautiful to behold. There is still noise on the farm, but its different. Not the beeps of emails and text messages rolling into your inbox or car horns alerting you to your impending doom or anything that NEEDS you. Instead it is the sounds of bees searching for new flowers, cows on distant farms, trains rumbling past, the drip of irrigation. I think the beauty in these noises is that they don’t require me or my attention. For crops to be grown and harvested, my presence (and my fellow interns) are very much needed, but bees will still find pollen, cows will still be mooing, and the trains will still roll past whether or not I am there and with out ever noticing when I am there. Maybe our lesson this Summer isn’t what I expected. Yes, I will learn to grow and sell produce, but maybe it goes beyond the scripted curriculum to something only the land itself can teach. I haven’t completely grasped what the lesson is yet, but I think it is partially the lesson of stewardship.

Organic farming is different from conventional in many ways. We can’t spray round-up to kill the weeds or a general, non-specialized pesticide to kill all the bugs that do or do not threaten our crop. We have to watch, wait, and learn. This means scouting the insects that are present in our field, keeping records of past problems, planning the crops to compliment each other, using cover crops, mulches, etc. This takes time, knowledge, and experience. It doesn’t feel as invasive to me, but is instead guiding and nurturing. Stewardship. I think the farm is showing me that we do not own it, but instead we are responsible for caring for it. I think I am grasping in the dark a little here and I’m sure as more time passes the lesson will become clearer.

Note: As this entry was being prepared, it did rain. Huzzah.