In the summer of 2013, I tried my hand at organic farming at the well-established and nationally-recognized, Potomac Vegetable Farms. I learned how to grow, what seemed to me, every vegetable under the blazing Virginia sun.
Most of my work was in the fields – weeding, transplanting, hoeing, seeding, picking and bunching. I worked with a 9-person crew to fulfill orders for our CSA (community supported agriculture) and farmers markets.
On some Saturdays I worked at the Arlington Farmers Market, where I rang up customers’ overflowing armloads of fresh vegetables. Going to the markets was a special treat – the reward of a week-long toil in the fields. Customers were truly excited to visit our purple tent. It was the only place where they could find obscure black radishes, fresh bunches of delicate herbs, and a dazzling array of multi-colored heirloom tomatoes.
I’ll never forget when a young woman said to me, “I think I want to get into kale. Which variety should I get?” Although part of me wanted to chuckle at the expense of this veggie amateur, I held my laughter and remembered back to a few years ago when I hadn’t even heard of kale. Working at the farmers market allowed me to share my blooming passion for delicious vegetables with experts and greenhorns alike.
Potomac Vegetable Farms is part of the Chesapeake region CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) network of farms. Every three weeks we would travel to another CRAFT farm for a tour and potluck. At the summer solstice CRAFT conference, I gave a presentation on the importance of establishing wildlife corridors on farmland. Much of the information I presented was from a project I worked on for The Nature Conservancy.
Farming for a summer was an incredibly rewarding and sometimes heartbreaking experience. The financial, emotional, and physical strain on small-scale farmers is immense. In spite of their struggles, farmers are a special breed and I am happy to call a handful of them my friends.
Although I don’t plan to be a farmer myself, I do hope that my career path supports sustainable agriculture in some way. Because if we don’t have good food, what’s the point of this whole thing?