Fall Gratitude on the Vegetable Farm
By Lauren Rudersdorf | Photos By Lauren Rudersdorf 0
Living the majority of my life in the state of Wisconsin, I've long understood the seasonality of food and the rhythms of nature. Spring is muddy with ever-increasing light that energizes. It's asparagus, peas and rhubarb. Summer is bright and overambitious. It's tomatoes, sweet corn and watermelon. Fall is changing leaves with shortening days that soothe. It's Brussels sprouts, apples and pumpkins. Winter is slow and restorative, dark and a bit lonely. It's potatoes, onions and anything that stores well in the root cellar. Each part of the year is distinctly different. The variation becomes routine.
In this fourth year as a vegetable farmer, I'm beginning to recognize a different type of shift in the seasons. Not just the food, the daylight or the workload. For me, each season of the year comes with its own distinct emotions. At times, it's hard to admit that I am not, in fact, in control of my own temperament, that I am entirely predictable, that the farming season, the rising and falling temperatures, the signs of growth, life and vitality, predict my moods. It's also humbling. As a person who spends at least 40 hours outdoors each week, I too am a product of the natural rhythms of my environment.
Spring for me is a time of ideas, dreams and inspiration. We're busy getting our farm ready for the new year, but the work is manageable. I'm energized by the creation of something new. I don't yet know what the season ahead will look like and my anticipation is laced with optimism. In spring I am hyper, hopeful and enthusiastic.
Summer is busy, a time of non-stop movement and unyielding to-do lists. There are things to seed, things to weed, things to harvest. It's a time of excitement, each week yielding new crops, but also utterly draining. In summer I am frenzied, jubilant and exhausted.
Winter is a time of rest. With empty fields and nothing to harvest, we spend these long, cold months deep in thought about future plans. We examine notes on the past season and make arrangements for the upcoming one. In winter I am introspective, deliberate and, at times, a bit restless.
But something lies between the intensity of summer and the quiet of winter. It is not an immediate transition. Before our land lies fallow in winter and beyond that time in summer when the fields are too full to see anything with any degree of clarity, there is fall. Unhurried, calm, patient, thoughtful fall. When October arrives, there is a sudden rush of relief and zen that pours over me. The fullness of late spring and early summer has given way to well-harvested crops that are no longer producing and well-mowed fields awaiting their cover crop slumber. When we look out at the field, it doesn't feel stressful or chaotic. There is still plenty of harvesting to be done and fall clean-up to be taken care of, but it is no longer such a race. The pace has slowed. The to-do lists are manageable. And suddenly I begin to take notice. The fields are beautiful. Our season was a success. I exhale. Then the gratitude comes pouring in.
I'm grateful for the soil and the sun for giving us such healthy, beautiful crops. I'm grateful for the bees who danced around our fields all summer, buzzing from flower to flower and pollinating the thousands of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers everyone loves so dearly. I'm grateful for the weather for being kind and gentle with our plants. I'm grateful for our dogs for leaving their scent all over our field and keeping the raccoons away.
I'm grateful for my husband for not getting bogged down by the details, for somehow never getting tired, for not getting too beaten down amid a very hard, very exhausting, totally draining fourth season, and for not resenting me when we were buried deep and I hated the farm.
I'm grateful for my parents for too many things to list: for land access that came so easily, for land down the road that we may be able to buy one day, for letting us take over their basement each season before we are able to finance a packing facility, for letting us pump water during the spring drought from their home well, and for doing major field work every fall so we can wait to invest in a tractor.
I'm grateful for our members for not only investing in us each season but for offering such kind words and support, for wanting to be on an advisory panel that meets quarterly to make our farm better, for always being such beacons of happiness and for believing in us when we forget to believe in ourselves.
As beginning farmers, we have much to be grateful for. Without the tribe of people who support us, we couldn't have made the transition from recent college graduates playing in the dirt because we didn't know what else to do with our lives to real, professional, intentional farmers. It is in fall that I take the time to recognize that no matter how hard we worked over the past six months, it's not really about us. It's about the earth that supports us and the family that believes in us, the CSA members who decide to give us their money each spring with the knowledge that we'll pay them back for five months with the best produce we can provide, and the chefs who work tirelessly to develop real relationships with farmers.
In fall, I remember that this CSA farm of ours is about something so much bigger than us. In fall, I am happy, I am unburdened and I am grateful.