Saturday, September 12, 2009

August and now

Wow! It's been over a month since my last post?!! Well, this entry will be a long one to make up for all that lost time. So much has transpired in the last month, much of which accounts for the weeks of missing content.

Where do I begin? The season peaked out in August with cucumbers, and squash coming out of every pore of the farm. Add to that, wonderful heirloom tomatoes that were fortunately saved from the evil blight that plagued many a Northeast farmer this season. The first half of August remained relentlessly wet and muddy, then transformed into weeks of gorgeous hot, sun shiny days that forced everything into maturity at the same time. The harvests were bountiful and stunningly colorful.

The bad news was, in the midst of all this abundance, the staff of three workers in "the shed" where we receive and process all the produce, walked out one cloudy afternoon, never to return. Let me give a bit of background and then an explanation.

The workers on the farm consist of just a few hands, amazing for the amount of food we produce and process. There are 7 H2A (temporary from overseas)workers from Egypt who have been working the farm tirelessly for the past two seasons. They are incredibly hard working and expert farmers who do all the planting, tending and harvesting for the entire farm. Then there are the local guys; Ron the handy man extraordinaire, Andrew the livestock expert, Mark the driver and do it all guy, Dag my partner in crime, who is the other eye and ear of the shed, and Chris who comes occasionally to lend a helping hand and drive the truck. In addition, I worked directly in the shed with two Tibetan workers from the city; Dhargay and Sonom.

Over the summer we also had two more hands; Abdo, the son of the farm owners, and Shams, the son of the other partner of the farm. They both left in early August to resume school and enjoy what was left of their working summer.

Once the 2 boys left, another young Tibetan worker named Chosan came up from the city to join the crew. SO here I was left with three Tibetan workers and I noticed a change in their attitude right away and the air in the shed became thick with bad vibes and disrespectful attitudes, directed at yours truly. In case you haven't noticed from all the name tossing, I am the only female working in the shed. When I first joined the crew I knew immediately that I had disturbed the lion's den and that my presence had shaken up the testosterone laden atmosphere enough to elicit some resentment amongst members of the den. It wasn't until later that I also learned that political influence played part in the way I was viewed in the eyes of the Tibetan workers, myself being of Chinese descent. To make a long story short, things finally came to a head after two weeks with the Tibetan crew. One day an argument arose out of the thickness and the three make a collective decision to walk out and headed straight to the first bus out of the city, which they did with incredible speed.

I was left in the shed surrounded by crates of freshly harvested produce and resumed my work. I felt a great tension lifted and happier than I had in weeks. After a few phone calls, Dag and some other local folks came to the rescue and we made do with a makeshift crew for the next few days. Zaid was recruiting staff from the city, mostly newly arrived Egyptians who had no idea what they in for. After two weeks of such workers, we finally got together a somewhat solid (I hope) crew in the shed to get us through the season. There are only a few weeks left of the season and I pray we get through it smoothly.

It has been a rough few weeks working extremely long shifts in the shed and dealing with all kinds of mini crisis that are just part of the day to day workings of a farm. I will save my reflections for another time, for now I will just stick to the facts.

I've had many dinnerless work nights since I usually get home too late eat or prepare anything for that matter. It has become a cycle of very hard work for four days straight and very hard rest and play for the three I have off. Those days off have been spent back in the city with family and friends, mostly cooking and eating. I don't mind the hard work and long hours, the toughest thing for me this season has been eating alone and not having time to cook. Hopefully the new staff will work out and in the very least there will be time to prepare some of the wonderful food the farm has been producing. It's frustrating to be surrounded by all the fabulous produce and not have time to prepare any of it. As I handle the vegetables I can only dream of the wonderful dishes I could make if I had time...

As soon as September arrived I noticed an immediate change in temperature, almost overnight. The nights have been cold and mornings are so covered in mist you can watch it literally rising as the sun begins to warm the day. It's a beautiful sight as the mountains are slowly unveiled as the mist whorls briskly skyward.

We are now slowing production although colder weather veggies will start rolling in. The melons this season have been spectacularly fragrant and sweet; so many varieties and subtle flavors. The winter squashes will slowly replace the summer varieties and lettuces are returning with a vengeance.

The cycles of the season have been a joy to witness. I can honestly say, despite the tons of vegetables I have had to move, wash, pack, weigh, count, bunch and send, I have not tired one bit of admiring the gifts of the amazing botanical world that nourish us. In fact, it has only magnified my gratitude that we should be so lucky to be fueled by plants as a life preserving necessity. It makes me happy to eat.


  1. The melons were out of this world..

  2. I hope the staffing issues are behind you. On another note, your roasted, spoiled, non-garlic and fennel eating chickens looked delicious.