How does our food grow?
This is the question that's been plaguing my mind for quite some time now. Even though I know a lot about food and shop regularly at farmers' markets and even know many farmers personally, I still didn't know the answer to this question. I wanted to see and experience it for myself. What I found was something much deeper and richer than I could have ever imagined. To be in touch with food, with nature, with oneself is something that we have truly lost in our urban way of life and something I found during my time at Foragers Farms. Follow my journey as I spend most of the summer volunteering at this regenerative organic farm in Cobourg, Ontario. This Chapter is about my first day.
The Calm Before the Storm
It was 7pm on a Sunday evening, we were having a quiet dinner at my sister’s new apartment. My mind was elsewhere, thinking about my first day at farm. What would it be like? What should I pack? That’s when I get a text from Erin from Foragers Farms, “Looks like its going to rain tomorrow, dress accordingly.” I remember thinking, “‘Dress accordingly?’ I don’t know what that really means, I usually just get out my umbrella on a rainy day or stay home.” But that was not going to help me here, I was definitely going to need rainboots and a rain jacket; both of which, I didn’t have.
So, there I was, at 9pm at night in the nearest Walmart, the only time you will find me there, looking for rainboots that would ‘do the job.’ I figured I could use my waterproof Bench jacket as my raincoat, I mean how bad could it be?
Since it was a rainy day, Erin said we would start at 9am instead of the usual 7am, which meant I could sleep in a little. So, the next morning, I woke up and left my city life and apartment early in the morning to get to Cobourg by 8:30am. To say it was raining, would be understatement, it was pouring. The rain was so heavy it was hard to see the road and cars around me. My new rainboots and makeshift rain jacket were stuffed somewhere in the back along with my thoughts about how the first day was going to go – they were the last thing on my mind as I focused on the road ahead.
The rain slowed down a bit as I turned on the Foragers Farms and Headwaters Farms entrance. As I drove through, I could already feel transported to a different place, where there are no roads or sidewalks, and you find towering, majestic trees instead of buildings. As I pulled up in the ‘parking lot,’ Erin came out of the house and waved me to come inside. I turned off the car, grabbed my overnight bag, jacket, and boots and raced it for the door.
As I entered the house, I first stepped into the modest foyer, full of jackets hung up on the side wall and an equivalent number of boots and shoes scattered around the floor and shoe rack. Erin told me to leave my stuff on the bench and come sit for breakfast. I entered the kitchen area and there was everyone sitting around the large wooden table – Erin’s partner Tyler along with their son Cypress, Kailey, Jacob, and Marissa. Kailey is the full-time intern, Jacob is the mid-time intern, and Marissa is the herbalist with her own business who also works at the farm. It was like something out of a movie, this communal table and space, so different than my lonely dining table back in the city.
The Rainy Harvest
After breakfast, it was time to get to work. Mondays are harvest days at the farm, so I was going to get to harvest my first veggies ever! I had usually done weeding at previous farm experiences I had been to. Since it was my first day, Erin thought it would be best for me to shadow Kailey for the day. Before I knew we were all clearing our plates and getting ready to hit the fields. I pulled on my rainboots and sipped my jacket, hoping it would be enough for the rain. Meanwhile Kailey opted for a pair of crocs and a blue sporty rain jacket. Erin’s message of “dress accordingly” came to mind, I wouldn’t have thought of crocs as appropriate wear, but Kailey seemed confident in them.
We had to take off the row cover first, which was a task on its own. The rain had made it heavy, and the wind was picking up which made it hard to handle and pull off to the side. After we managed to set the cover aside, Kailey showed me what to do. She grabbed a handle of baby greens and cut below the leaves but not too low to the soil, just in between. She told me to be careful with the sharp knife and gave me an encouraging smile before she got to work. It was not easy; the leaves were small (aka baby greens) so they were hard to handle, plus I had to focus on cutting the leaves and not my hand. Eventually, I got the hang of it, but the rain started to catch up to me, not only physically but mentally. I had finally come to the realization and acceptance that I was just going to get soaked, there was no way around it – boots or no boots, raincoat or no raincoat, working outside in the rain for a long period of time, you were inevitably going to get wet.
To tell you that I have a greater appreciation for baby greens will be an overstatement. I know this wasn’t the usual scenario for harvesting greens, it is usually easier under normal non-wet conditions, but it opened a bigger picture for me. This is the work, this is the life of farmers, of farming! Even in the worst of conditions, there is work to be done and that is what we should be appreciative of and thinking of when we choose to buy directly from a farmer. During this first rainy harvest, I started to learn about resilience and farming and how the two are more intertwined that I originally thought.
After The Storm
Three hours later, or at least it seemed like that, we finished. Two full bins of harvested baby greens ready to be washed, dried, and packaged. We broke for lunch and headed towards the house. As we made our way, I noticed that my boots had filled with water, and I was wishing I had a pair of crocs like Kailey and a pair of shorts like Marissa. Water on skin dries faster than water on clothing, I took a mental note for the future.
It was a lovely day to end my first day at the farm. Tony and Linda’s property is gorgeous, their outdoor table sits atop of the hill which gives a wonderful view of the surrounding acres of land they own. We set each of our dishes on the table, buffet style, and then we all started filling our plates. Everything was delicious, and so fresh. Farming is hard work but rewarding. The feeling of being together, celebrating the food grown on our table was something truly special. It filled me back with the energy that was spent throughout the day, I was all of the sudden ready for another day at the farm.