Farmer's Vision Quest

A farmer begins every year with a vision of perfection.

And every year,

in the course of the seasons and the work,

this vision is relentlessly whittled down

to the real results

by human frailty and fallibility,

by the mortality of creatures,

by pests and diseases

by the weather.

The crop year is a long struggle,

ended invariably not by the desire for perfection

but by the need to accept something less than perfection

as the best that can be done.

~ Wendell Berry

After a restful two weeks, we are now beginning our 7th season here at Bee Fields Farm. Many people consider the beginning of the season to be in May or June when farmers transplant in the garden and fresh vegetables fill the stalls in the farmers’ markets. But farmers know that the most important work a farmer can do is in the winter.

“Towards the end of January the mineral substances of the Earth have the greatest longing to become crystalline, and the deeper we go into the Earth, the more they have this longing to become purely crystalline within the “household of Nature.”

~Rudolf Steiner (Agricultural course chapter 2)

During the month of January, the farmer builds a crystal-clear image of their garden for the growing season to come. While Elad is going through lists of crops that he would like to grow for the CSA members, I go through my stock and sales data. I try to discern which products my customer liked the most and what I enjoy producing. For instance, my teas are very popular and I am so proud of their quality that I love them. They allow me so much creativity that I need to restrain myself from producing more and more blends. Once I know what I need to produce I can make a list of what I need to grow.

After we both decide on what we will grow the fun part begins: shopping. Seed catalogs are so fascinating. There are many options from which to choose. Vandana Shiva, who dedicated the last thirty years to the defense of biodiversity and the integrity and well-being of all species writes:

“Whatever happens to seed affects the web of life. When seed is living and regenerative and diverse, it feeds the pollinator, the soil organism, and the animals, including human”

Although seeds are small and to the naked eye seem lifeless and immaterial, in reality, they influence not just the soil’s organisms and pollinators that we invite into our garden, but they also partake in creating an ecosystem that goes far beyond the garden and into the cosmos. So we take the decision of what seeds to order from which company seriously.

After we order seeds, we consult the garden map. Since we work with plant rotation, we look back at the last few years and start to plan what will go where in the garden. Slowly a picture of the garden during the summer becomes clear. In what part of the garden will the calendula bloom in bright orange? Where will the tulsi go? If we close our eyes we can picture how the garden will look like. Of course, this picture does not have any weeds or pests.

Next is the planning of our calendar. We work with the biodynamic calendar so we plan all our seeding and transplanting ahead of time. Some of the harvest dates, such as the root harvesting in the fall, are also planned during the winter. Elad puts down dates for the biodynamic preparations, while I plan on garden walks and workshops.

Voilà! the season is ready and looks so perfect in our imagination. But what can I say: when we make our plans, God sits in the sky and laughs. I never met a farmer that did not complain. It is either too cold or too warm, not enough rain or too much rain.

“The conscious purpose of science is control of Nature; its unconscious effect is disruption and chaos.”

~William Irwin Thompson

In my understating the great sin of Eve and Adam was not the search for knowledge but the hubris of thinking that they can separate themselves from the rest of the creation, observe it, and control it. For that, they got the most appropriate punishment:

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

through painfultoil you will eat food from it

all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow

you will eat your food”

~ Genesis 2

It is a very humbling experience when our plans meet the reality of nature. Agriculture is a culture because it combines the vision of religion, the healing power of science, and creativity of the farmer. A farmer is not only a "jack of all trades". He is on a continuing quest to bridge vision and reality, heaven and earth.