© 2013, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm
What does a farmer want for Christmas? What does the farmer give for a holiday present?
With all the commercials for a new ipad, an updated smart phone or an extended play list for an ipod, it is no wonder that commercials for a bunch of kale or a basket of Winter squash have yet to be televised. What does a farmer want for Christmas, or more to the point, what does the farmer give for a holiday present? Food, and especially organically grown produce is a staple for survival. Without food, water or shelter, all living things struggle. And so I am tempted to burden my friends and family with stored root crops, such as carrots or braided garlic, because this nourishment sustains us. The results of these long hours, days, weeks and months are as equally exciting as the fancy, mechanical gift items I listed above. A phone now brings instant communication for families and folks who need to share news of worry, mundane idle facts and great joy. A play list can immediately call up a classic Dylan song or a Bach contata, provided it was down loaded in advance, not to mention, legally.
So what is appealing about preparing soil in April, adding compost, sowing a carrot seed in May, cultivating the row in June, thinning the carrots in July and harvesting the slender and chubby orange roots some eighty days since they were sown? What is instant about about that process? And how about planting garlic in November (or amidst the cold soil in South River school’s December garden bed), only to harvest it a lengthy nine months later? I suppose there is a great deal of cultivating and growing of an ipod touch, from metal chip to tiny screws to polished cover, before one can pick it up for many dollars and dial a friend. There is a lot to be said for waiting, at this time of year, as many children who celebrate Christmas need to wait at least 12 days before opening presents. Many have to wait longer, as the holiday season and growing anticipation begins in late November. Waiting is a daily chore for the farmer. A farm teacher may have to wait years before knowing whether or not his or her education takes hold or makes an impact. When kids or adults come to the farm for a hands-on field trip, will that experience turning the compost pile have meaning or perhaps help on the next state standard test about soil content?
To help deal with the waiting, at the farm there is always a new and current crop to be harvested, shared and enjoyed. Even now, when the ice and snow are covering the fields and the farm stand is closed until April, there are products to sustain us. A new seed catalog offers hope for Spring and the possibility of grouping sugar snap peas with radish in one well-turned bed. A farm conference brings together hard working farmers to share ideas of new crops and healthy strategies for invasive pests and plants. And yes, there are carrots which are sweet if picked after the frost and garlic hanging in the pantry can liven up a tomato sauce made in the dog days of August and put up in the cellar or stored in the freezer.
I will munch and chew the carrot and think of a song to down load, from the depths of my mind, to hum to myself. I may not even need to call someone to instantly share this joy. Merry, sustained holidays to all and to all a good crop of gifts.