Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

If Winds Prevail

Young Farmers 5Many boats on the South Shore sit in dry dock for the winter. Lots of those boats, not all, are shrink wrapped to better protect and preserve. Ahh plasics! The sailors and nautical minded folks can unfurl maps and charts to plan for future voyages and jaunts. Farms in winter are often at rest, wrapped under a blanket of snow and resting fields under compost and seaweed, so as to protect the soil. Many farmers sit in dry dock in winter too, ordering seeds, sipping coffee and still making sure the animals are fed and there is a clear path to the barns and greenhouse. And now that the warm weather has returned, the plastic is off and the sun is beyond the yardarm, or some such Sloop John B reference, the sailors can set sail judging the wind, reading the ocean, cognizant of the tide and ready to hard a lee and tack. The farmers also relish this seasonal opportunity to put the seeds in the ground, cultivate and harvest crops for the customers, the community and even weary sea legged worthy sailors who might happen upon the Main Barn or Farmers Market. Both ventures (sailing and farming) take practice and skill, thought and reaction, patience and determination. With the sails (or even a modest sunfish sail) billowing in the wind and a view of the nearby shore or open sea, there is quite a bit of satisfaction for the sailor at this moment of success and smooth sailing. Similarly, a well-weeded crop of leeks, in their rows from April to November, never looks better than after the quack grass, potato weed and gallinstoga has been pulled and discarded, leaving the leeks to stand tall until the next time weeding is needed. The farmer can look back admiringly at this accomplishment, while still knowing there is more to hoe, but thrilled at this feat for this day.

Where have all the farmers gone? Gone to docks, nearly everyone. The sailing team has never looked stronger. The of-age children, in their life vests, bicycle to the boat house to apprentice and gain knowledge of this life-long skill. There are techniques to learn and master. There is etiquette to practice. There are boats, skiffs and sails to hoist. In an oceanfront community, like Cohasset, Scitaute or Hull, Marshfield and Duxbury too, sailing schools are thriving and teeming with would be sailors who may one day have a boat of their own to guide. There may be boats at their clubs and family docks that await many a deck-hand. It is important for those with boats or access to boats to know how to person the sail, or at least enjoy the ride and the companionship of sailing and working with mates. Lately at the Farm there has been some good examples of working together for a different purpose. As the weeds grow, the compost needs sifting and the fields need tending, there are some teenage farmers learning another important skill, whether they have a boat or not. The skill of growing food, the art of clearing weeds, adding locally-made, healthy compost and sowing a new crop of beans may indeed be a life-long bit of mastery. The Farm Pantry community service program for teenagers at Holly Hill Farm, now in its fifth year, is drawing and attracting some kids from Hingham, Scituate and even sailing-favored Cohasset to work on the Farm and grow produce for donation to local Food Pantries. The teens are gaining needed hours for their high school community service requirements and finding joy as well in knowing their work has a purpose and meaning.  One teen, who recently completed two weeks of working, learning and growing, wrote, “We were able to experience the process of getting food from the farm field to the market. I can’t wait to do this again next year!” Good for a Farm Teacher to hear. Great for a community to hear of kids’ ability to find meaning in their work. These are some thoughtfully engaged students, who put down their social media devices and got their hands dirty. I suppose sailors need to also keep their phones at bay, while pulling the rope and letting their fingers drag in the peaceful, refreshing salt water. Boat builders will continue to craft a fine ship for future sailors and the ocean will always be there, with a steady tide. And hopefully, there will be some who can grow the food for the many who eat, and for all who can learn from where food comes on distant mid-western land and especially nearby shores.

© 2015, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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