Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

The Seen and the Unseen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is hard to see the asparagus at the farm, even though it is such a reliable, hardy, 12-year-old perennial running the length of Peck’s Meadow from east to west at Holy Hill Farm.  There’s an unfortunate amount of water, err mud, and the beginnings of weeds to almost drown out this delicious crop. Farmer Dee coaxed a couple of pounds from the still-cold, cold ground for this past weekend’s soft opening of the farm stand. A visit to the historic barn sill yields the early shopper some eggs and renewed garlic scallions, along with a variety of locally sourced treats and wheat. The farmers have other plants for less wet fields and home gardens already sold in late April, with more of the summer plants on the ready for mid-May and the annual two-weekend plant sale, which doubles as a northern debutante ball for folks itching to dance in their warm gardens and fashion a few rows of salad mix, foxglove and this year maybe a new blueberry patch. All the plants at the farm are still mostly nestled in their hoop houses, waiting for a more consistent warming trend, where temperatures and wind do not frighten these still young seedlings.  There will be time yet to harden off and acclimate these plants for the ongoing, fluctuating, New England climates.

Many growers and seekers of all things green have already begun the effort to show their pride and joy in a newly, reclaimed lawn and visits to garden centers for all things pansy.  The flowers on the ground, in pots and on the trees are a delight to see, especially set against a bright, blue sky.  I see lots of adverts for a green lawn, for a “weed and feed” 4-step program. Soon, very few of us will see the yellow flags that indicate the application of a fertilizer. The flags are even hard to decipher as many a landscape company turn them away from a passerby and direct their attention to the customer. “Stay off the lawn!” Cross out the children from walking or playing on the lawn. Never has such an image been so clear and unnerving: two kids in a circle with a line through the middle.  And I cannot see the tiny fertilizer pellets that are immersed in the grass killing off the pretty dandelions. And I cannot see the herbicide and pesticide as the rain washes it away and it travels into the water system that becomes our drinking water. I can only see the large and small, portable and tanked containers of round-up, not the actual product as it is sprayed hither and yon, far and wide on many gardens. Everybody, all 7 billion, needs to eat and there are healthier ways to provide such food, other than by means of chemical fertilizers.
Kids and adults on the Farm and at school farm gardens can see the happy worms making compost. They can even hold one or two to watch their wiggly work. There are such happy and unhappy things to see on a re-awakening farm in Spring. Ticks and poison ivy are unpleasant and need to be learned to avoid, if possible. Tree nuts for some are identifiably unpleasant for those with an allergy to tree nuts. Oh where do we go from here?  Are we better off in an indoor classroom, where science kits arrive safely and hermetically wrapped in (hopefully non-leaching) plastic bags? Could no morning recess for a kindergarten class mean instead going outside with a science journal and a growing skill for observation? To each their own. But as I pulled off the damaging tick the other day, I sighed in frustration, then got right back outside to transplant violas with my daughter amidst the annoying-to-her bees. Go on we must, with caution, unease and a growing awareness of what a beautiful, complicated web we weave, and not sure of what next will be seen or unseen by the farmer in us all.

© 2014, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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