© 2014, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm
Early Young Farmers on the Farm
For a 12 to 15-year-old, many Saturdays are taken up with homework, perhaps some yard work, a job, a sail when the weather warms, practice for lacrosse, soccer, ballet and plenty of computer explorations. This spring for six consecutive Saturdays at the Farm, one young man has taken part of his day to sow seeds, sift compost, dodge bees and space potatoes for a future late spring and summer harvest. The Early Young Farmer Program at the Farm is an attempt to draw young teens to the fields, the garden and the hard, satisfying work and toil of farming. Farming though does not come easily or quickly. The arugula seeds take 48 days. The potatoes with sprouting eyes take a couple of months. Lettuce needs time, space and monitoring(read water, sun, soil) to germinate and form into a lettuce head. Carrots, sowed directly in the ground, need warm soil and patience before hopefully pulling out a fresh, dirty carrot almost three months later. And finally, as it is time to transplant the Summer stalwarts peppers, eggplant and tomatoes, the fruits of these plants’ labor will arrive in mid-August. So much work, with so much waiting and unknown results during a six-week time period.
In order to reap what has been sown, one has to put those seeds in the ground, in the seed tray and tend and cultivate the plants. This waiting and attention to detail may seem like a lot to ask of a teenager or a farmer for that matter. Many of us, teens too, seek instant gratification, quick replies and immediate answers. After all, a google search, a call on a hand-held phone or an inquiry on a computer gives us the information we desire right away. Not so with plants. Compost too takes time. Weeding can be a daily, ongoing, seemingly never-ending task. Peas need trellising. Tomatoes need staking. Carrots need thinning. Potatoes need hilling. Oh my, how can we lure more teens to farming? How else can I sell the hard work and vulnerable-to-weather task and skill of farming to young men and women?
The Young Farmers who come to the Farm are certainly unique and wonderful. They may be engaged in a variety of after school drama productions. They may already be jugglers of soccer balls. They may already devout hours to creative writing, musical musings and Irish step dancing. Or they may not have a lot going on after the school bell rings. But come late spring and summer, teens will be able to come to the farm on a weekly basis (or more often, if they like) to harvest and bring produce to the farmers market in Cohasset. They can sell the produce to customers and take part in the vendor-customer relationship. For more than ten summers, the young farmers gain insight to the hard work that is part of farming. They will not fully understand the seasonal ups and downs of farming. They will not completely comprehend the pressures of budgets, spreadsheets and bottom line of growing and selling produce to the public. But for a week in the summer, they will push away the rocks, reach into the soil and figure out how to carefully harvest a fresh farm product. And this spring, one young farmer is carefully and thoughtfully sowing the seeds for the future. He is taking a little time away from other interests and pastimes. For any young farmer, may the pursuit match the result and satisfaction. Perhaps others will join us in this quixotic endeavour to sow, reap and grow. There is plenty to do, both immediately and for the long-term.