Some of you know us in a new grower-consumer relationship. Others know us over years of weekly vegetable deliveries and work visits to our farm and rented fields. A few have watched us grow from garden babies taking first steps to field-scale production that has kept us running for decades.
It’s hard to feel for a place one has never seen, or a person one has never met. This is especially true of each morsel we buy to eat from an anonymous food chain. I realized in my youth – after 2 years teaching children of mostly farm families in Africa – that I’d never really felt deeply about food.
I never cared much about what I ate, that is, until I came to know someone lovingly growing food with dignity, self-respect and health. Tasting that food, taking that work of hand and soil into my body, forever changed me. It rose up in me, embracing this vocation when I met Dela 30 years ago, and she said she’d always wanted a farm. That led us to Scotch Hill. It led us to you.
As we worked together to establish this farm, we discovered Community Supported Agriculture’s greatest gifts. It helps us to derive joy from all our senses in healthful, whole relationships to a source of food. In this food, we find common hearts and minds devoted to friends, to a place we protect, to practices we serve.
Reading (and writing) this CSA newsletter is part of what makes our exchanges over food more than a transaction. This isn’t just buying and selling food. In past years, I’ve worked as hard to describe that for you in weekly newsletters as I have in growing food with family, farm apprentices, paid workers and volunteers.
Your first newsletter from our farm this season was late because Dela and I have found ourselves locked in a struggle with Nature, or rather climate change. Weeks of heavy rain and muddy field conditions that slowed our start abruptly shifted to drought.
We’ve lived and worked through wide swings in weather for years. Yet we’ve never gotten through challenging soil conditions that have gone so suddenly from heavy wet clods to cement-like crusts. It’s made planting and tending both seeds and vegetable transplants out of our greenhouses extremely difficult. And not even in the historic 2012 drought do I recall ever having to devote so much time to irrigation in May and June as this year.
A friend from Illinois, a grower with whom we served on the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training steering committee, visited here several weeks ago. He said these same growing conditions have slowed the season’s start across our region. He was amazed, however, to see how our beds and plots of vegetables were coming along “way ahead” of farms south of us.
Farm skills come with persistence through hard experience. Every inch of ground we attempt to seed or transplant is testing every skill we’ve derived from years at Scotch Hill. A conviction is with us, too, from all these years as a CSA farm. We cannot accomplish all we need to do – and serve you 8 to 10 varieties of vegetable items each week – without volunteer help.
Thousands of tomato plants need staking and support with twine and wire. We need help moving hoses and sprinklers, also our hay wagon tank to feed drip tape irrigation in a rented field. We need help weeding, mulching, and trellising. Labor intensive harvesting will begin soon, just as my vegetable delivery time increases.
We are working now every day of the week. Tasks are arranged around farm delivery and pick-up of vegetables each Wednesday and Thursday. Some chores require physical ability and tolerance for heat. Others can be done sitting or standing at a counter, sink, hydrant, or scale.
We like to converse as we work. Learning about each other’s lives is part of community. We cannot solve problems related to farm and food systems ignorant of each other, alone or isolated.
Week’s vegetables: Asparagus for Madison and Milwaukee, rhubarb for on-farm pick-up; leaf lettuce mix, spicy greens mix, large turnip, New Fire Leaf Lettuce; Igl Heart tomato for Madison and Milwaukee, basil plant for on-farm pick-up; Ziata radishes; bok choi; gift of Dela’s cheese from goat milk.
Recipes and help: Dela posts a photo of the vegetables to help identification. We welcome your contributions. Link to Facebook via www.scotchhillfarm.com Let us know when to expect visits: 608 897-4288 / 312-9588.