There are unexpected perks and disadvantages to any and every occupation on this good Earth. The perks and prickles of farming are many and famous. Long hours, rewarding work. Dirty hands, clean hearts. Being at the whims of nature and also at her bosom.
One of our favorite perks of the profession, gifts that keeps on giving, are the abiding friendships we develop with the people we work with; our colleagues in the fields; compatriots through the long summer days; comrades in the Fall frosty harvests.
There is something about going through a season on a farm that feels like you really went through something with someone. Something indescribable. Something important. And you really get to know someone through the ups and down of a growing season; how they fall, how they get up.
Perhaps this bond is not unlike the bond soldiers speak of with their war buddies.
But I think the real secret to it in farming maybe something simple… and rather rare these days.
Lots of conversation.
It is well known: Human-scale agriculture requires a lot of repetitive work with the hands. Harvesting 800 feet of tomatoes; hand weeding 600 bed feet of Fall carrots; washing a morning’s worth of fresh vegetables. With the hands occupied, the mind and the heart — and the tongue — are freed to wander. One might say, on a 95 degree day, on the 4th of 5 tomato rows, they are required to wander for the upkeep of sanity. Regardless of need, with a buddy alongside you, and the hands occupied, the mind and heart oft and do wander together and great — or at least informative, interesting, revealing, or hilarious — conversations inevitably sprout up like weeds in the field.
Wendell Berry (good old, Wendell!) famously writes about the culture of conversation (of good storytelling, of good “talk”) in the mid-century tobacco fields of Kentucky. There, he writes, the talk could be exceptional. And a good talker was as good as gold. A good talker could make the day fly by. A great talker could illuminate the soul. While the conversation topics have surely changed, this is all still true today at Green Valley Community Farm.
And lucky for us, we’ve got some exceptional talkers with us this season.
Anna, with her inquisitive, seeking, audacious mind; her breadth and depth of knowledge; and her proneness to outbreaks of ticklish rolling laughter, is a godsend of conversation during a late afternoon raking session. She is an encyclopedic font of Harry Potter knowledge (ask her anything), will deep dive with you in debate (she is a Ravenclaw, afterall), and change your mind for the better.
Kate’s buoyant, effervescent, pun-filled parley provides the breeze you need whilst crushing a 200 foot bind-weed invasion. She is a bold and compassionate explorer of the human heart and spirit, the queen of Lord of the Rings trivia (and puns), and the reigning champion of the celebrity-vegetable name game (i.e. Rutabaga Ginsberg; Benedict Cucumberpatch).
We are also fortuned enough to be visited by regular volunteers and farm visitors, who are great conversationalists themselves, and their relative rarity on the farm makes us drawn to their talk, to their minds, like moths to a flame.
Kayta and I have a deep history with field talk. Our relationship was essentially birthed through 7 months of field conversations on 6 acres of green fields in Western Massachusetts. I won her heart by narrating the entire plot of the movie “Aliens” over the course of three days of hand weeding (sound effects included). While our field talk now consists mostly of the practical aspects of keeping GVCFarm humming, we still cherish our field talk.
Farmers: We may be penniless paupers but we are filthy rich in long, deep, meandering, dialogue with our fellow humans and the friendships that come from it. And in this fast paced, disconnected age, that’s as good as gold.
See you in the fields,
David & Kayta