Week 17 (Chicago Week 15)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Purple peacock OR broccoli
  • Beets
  • Redventure celery
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Artichokes OR okra
  • Bell peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Dragon Tongue OR green beans
  • Kale
  • Melon
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes
  • Sorrel

Power of Earth’s terrain, nourishing and restorative 

Terrain is a warm, natural embrace of life. It’s so much more than a pleasing landscape. It is physical. It is mental. It is spiritual.

Terrain is a rich collection of minerals. It is a wealthy bank of seed in infinite variety. It is microbes, insects, birds, animals – all being nourished from folds, layers, dynamic constituents of terrain.

Over a growing season, all manner of soil, seed and plant life reaches out from terrain to a human being. It uniquely shapes the human heart, mind, body. It nourishes every vital organ, instinct, capacity.

When I travel, especially as I’ve grown attached to a particular terrain as a farmer so many years, I see miles and miles of obliterated terrain. The more concrete, technological innovation, human intention, the more buried, the more neutralized, the terrain.

The more intensely exploited earth’s wealth, the more ruined is its terrain. Impoverishment of human life that stems from spoiled terrain is testified in bodies, faces, circumstances of its people.

In two trips from Scotch Hill Farm this month (to teach in West Africa and to lobby Congress in Washington, D.C.), I mourned native and natural terrain laid wasted by my ancestral roots.

I was particularly moved by this tragedy in ancient Toucoleur communities along the Senegal River. Despite their nation’s independence of 50 years, they’re still struggling from the ruining, extractive practices of colonial agriculture.

Just 2 successive years of planting peanuts robbed Senegal’s soil of almost one third its organic matter. Organic matter is what feeds soil life. Soil life returns the nutrients crops take from the soil. Cash cropping peanuts, cotton, corn – have been bankrupting soil in Senegal’s terrain more than 100 years.

Returning to the United States for a lobbying trip with Farmers Union members from across the nation, I felt the loss just as keenly in “modern” cities of our own nation. Everywhere our planes landed, I viewed terrain, being “developed” endlessly, in cycles of unending urban “renewal.” Little wonder the long, empty corridors of America’s more than 400 congressional offices, from which issue lifeless policies formulated in an intricate labyrinth of displaced terrain, feed such neglect of this vast countryside.

Ironically, during our travels, we did experience ennobling and enriching encounters along the way that demonstrated the power of terrain to ultimately prevail. Dela and I happened upon them by chance, or providence – whatever interpretation you prefer.

We stumbled onto a traveling exhibit of perennial and native grasses, with small grains, whose root masses had been carefully, painstakingly grown in cylinders, removed, washed, and displayed. From wheat, to sorghum, to millet, to switch grass, my eyes, my soul, drank in rich tribute to the hours, days, years of my own passionate, devoted human service to these plants and their root systems on Scotch Hill Farm’s terrain.

We found this display with other permanent, interpretative collections of both tropical and desert plants and their root systems under glass and steel (surrounding outdoor arbors, too), at the National Arboretum. Terrain from Senegal to the Congo, stretched across an ocean of memorable service spanning 40 years to African peoples.

Back home finally, we move about spaces so much more familiar. With gratitude for each of you who’ve supported and helped us, we nurture and tend this terrain.

I clear weeds and grasses, tangled roots, stems and vines of our spent vegetables, for fall share plantings. I till in composted organic matter. I repair hoop house coverings. I revel in the aftermath of rain, the warmth of near-perfect September weather forecast this week.

I’m so grateful despite all the threats I feel at home and abroad to the Earth’s terrain, to be your farmer, to treasure so many thoughts from recent travel, thanks to you. For you, I want to keep with Dela and our family serving our community’s terrain at Scotch Hill. In our last four weeks of the regular growing season, stop by this farm. Feel its terrain. Let it touch your spirit, feed your soul.