After five years of growing on our own we decided that we needed help in order to get done all the tasks that needed to get accomplished (that's alot of words for "we needed help weeding"). So we thought now would be a good time to hire from within the community, which fit with our whole buy local mantra.
We sat down and developed our questionaire,. My wife had questions she wanted to ask and I had come up with a couple basic ones myself. Her questions were of the general quality, "what experience do you have?, can you work out in the heat?, have you worked on a farm?, etc". My questions were simpler, but they struck at the heart of the matter and got down to the base of the job. First question up was "Why in your right mind would you want this job?" Second "Can you tell the difference between a weed and a plant?". And lastly, "how many fingers and toes do you have and do you know how to keep them?'
I came up with the first one because that's the question I get asked most by family, friends and work collegues, it's a simple question but one that has alot of historical baggage attached. Why do people look at farmers as having to be crazy when they try to grow food? Is it because the work is so physically demanding, start up costs and failure rates so high, too much uncertainty with weather and governement regulations, too much information to learn, too many things that are out of your control? Have we been brain washed into believing that only corporations are the ones capable of growing food for the consumer market or that you have to be born into a farming family in order to grow?
Farmers should be venerated and respected for their chosen profession, Like firemen or policemen a farm and its farmer is life supporting. What if we relied on the industrial food complex and concentrated animal farms for all of our food? When they say our food source is safe do you believe them? Should you, when every year food recalls are popping up more frequently than automobile recalls? Why are we as consumers allowing this to happen? There is nothing that beats freshness and food safety when it comes to local. When is the last time you heard of a local butcher recalling products or local vegetables being recalled for e-coli contamination. I know it can happen and chances are it will but I haven't heard of any yet and I know from our farm practices it is not. The "buy local" movement is growing I think because of the recalls but also for freshness and taste-the taste of a ripe tomato or fresh ear of corn, or carrots so sweet and crunchy you eat them before you get home.
As I stated before we started growing becuase we followed in our fathers footsteps, except we widen the garden. Like them it started with a single tomato plant, then pepper plants, then corn, peas, carrots, string beens, kale, lettuce, melons, blue berries, raspberries, apples and service berries and it keeps growing. But, it started because our fathers planted and tended their own gardens. Small as they were, the joy was the same, bringing vegetables in for the family. That simple act had its own intrinsic reward ,the fact that you grew it made all the more significance. At the time we were too small to realize it, but I think we are starting to get it. I think we do but I feel that we are still missing something I don't know.
What I do know is that the people that come out to our farm respect what we are doing. A lot of people know what we are sacrificing in order to grow organic food, baked goods, jams and eggs. They thank us and tell us how much they love the eggs or how good our strawberries were this year. They ask genuine questions about the operation and want to learn for their own gardens and for their own children and to get information from a trusted source. They look at their local farmer as not only a source of fresh fruits and vegetables but as a knowledge resource for their own growing. I love talking to our customers, I get to learn from them much more than one would think.
As for the people we hired, their answers to my questions made me see from a different perspective; not in that their answers were funny but they took the questions with a slight grin and launched into why farming wasn't that intimidating. Yes, if we taught them they could tell the difference between weeds and plants and pretty much everyone wanted to keep all their fingers and toes. They have turned out to be a great, eager and enlighting group to work with, they work hard, ask good questions and have been a wonderfull asset. We couldn't have asked for better or expected anything as close. Buy Local!!