Dear Readers Who Are Smart and Probably Have Indoor Jobs,
As you all know, a bubble of heat trapped the Northeast coast on Thursday and Friday. I can’t imagine how brutal it was as far down as Maryland; in Massachusetts, a thermometer at the farm read 103 degrees, though the heat index was apparently several degrees higher.
Despite the cooling centers that opened up all over Boston and the warnings from news stations to stay inside for fear of becoming a melting human popsicle, Drumlin Farm remained open and working. We spent most of Thursday spreading straw through about 10 rows of tomatoes (straw keeps the weeds from growing around our most expensive crop). Friday, we got to work at 6 instead of 7, hoping to get an early start on the harvest so that we could beat some of the heat. It was a noble effort, but we were all coated in sweat just from standing still in the fields, let alone cutting arugula and pulling onions from the ground.
This may sound like complaint– and okay, maybe I’m complaining a little, as I have never in my life been drenched in sweat for ten hours straight. However, within my (obnoxious) self-pity and (ungrateful) mutterings that life sucks in 100 degree weather, this experience creates a new empathy in me that gives way to a great reverence for all farmers in the world.
What would happen if all of the farmers in hot places, like parts of India or outside of Death Valley, decided not to work on hot days? No work would get done. No harvest; no watering of the heat-stricken plants. The local communities that depend on those farms would also go without food. And during a string of hot days like the ones we’ve had, whole crops would be lost if farmers decided just to stay inside for once. If small farms want consumers to rely on them instead of on generally environmentally unsustainable businesses like Whole Foods and Giant, then small farms have to work on the hottest days, the rainiest days, and the coldest days.
Which leaves me with a respect and admiration for our food providers that keeps expanding throughout my first full season as a farmer. The head farmer, Matt, works 10+ hour days, 7 days a week. Why? He has to. He needs the plants, the plants need care, and we need the fruits the plants produce. So he works all the time. I’m told that I’ll build the kind of endurance he has, though it’s hard to imagine not having a weekend to recover from the intensity of a five day farming week. I always find that on Saturday, our last day of work before the weekend, I am both high from the exhilaration of market and deeply exhausted from the mental challenges that accompany lifting 50 pound totes of potatoes as-quickly-as-possible and spreading straw on my hands and knees with the humidity heavy on my shoulders. One characteristic of my co-workers that I am still working to cultivate is the ability to separate physical exhaustion from mental exhaustion. No matter how physically tired or uncomfortable I am, it is always possible to keep going, so long as my resolve is strong.
In short: please thank your farmers. They are sincerely awesome.