LocalHarvest Newsletter, March 31, 2015

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

Last summer one of my country neighbors told me a story about another neighbor's barn cat who decided to have her kittens in my neighbor's shed. A couple of months later, one of the kittens fell from the loft and lost use of its back legs. When the mama was ready to move the litter back to her home farm, the lame kitten was too big to be carried and had to be left behind. Every day after, the mama trekked a half mile across the fields to tend the lone kitten. This had been going on for some months at the time I heard about it. When I told my daughter the tale, she said, "Awww! The mama loves that kitten a lot!" I don't know if cats can love, but this story makes me think about how we creatures of the Earth occasionally make a choice driven by something more reliable than love and deeper than reason. If everything within us tells us it is the only thing to do, we do it, despite the strain and risks involved.

For some people, farming is like that. Whether or not it pencils out, it is the only thing they can imagine themselves doing. It is the only work there is. Last week I had the pleasure of talking to with one such farmer, Carden Willis, of A Place on Earth CSA Farm in Turners Station, KY, about 40 miles outside of Louisville. Carden and his wife Courtney run a 50-share CSA. When they arrived on their farm eight years ago, the soil was worn out from hard use in tobacco production and the only structure on the place was a dilapidated barn. The early years were devoted to rehabilitating the land and putting basic farm infrastructure in place. Then their two boys came along, now four and two, and since then much time and attention has gone toward the children. Between the farm, the boys, and Courtney's full time teaching job, they have their hands full. "My goal for the last four years has been to survive, and so far so good with that," says Carden. But farming while parenting full-time brings considerable challenges, and Carden allows that he has done "an awful lot of farming by headlamp" the last few years.

Yet they persist.

Before the idea of becoming a farmer came to him, Carden says he just hadn't seen a way to feel good about working any of the occupations he could imagine. Farming suited him completely. "With farming I was able to find something that addressed the central, whole parts of myself. I can be challenged mentally, physically and psychologically. Whereas it was a great stretch to see myself working in a job. So as long as I can farm, this is all I can see myself doing."

It would be easy to overstate the impact of this certainty and believe that it would make farming easy. Yet singularity of purpose does not dig the potatoes, or lengthen the day, or pay the bills. The work itself remains full of struggle and compromise. Knowing this is the only work for him doesn't necessarily infuse Carden with perfect confidence either. He spoke to the difficulty of expanding the size of the CSA while the boys are small and their needs must sometimes trump the vegetables'.

Carden's certainty about his work doesn't assure him that he can do it, only that he will. That knowing seems to offer a kind of protection against the doubt that might otherwise gnaw at the edges of a proposition as complex and enduring as small-scale farming in the modern world.

As farmers everywhere head into the greenhouse and the fields this Spring, it is my hope that all will be blessed with the gift of deep certainty about their work. And may the rest of us support our local farmers all season long with gratitude for the purpose and perseverance they bring to the work of growing good food.

Until next time, take good care and eat well.

Erin Barnett

From the LH Store

If high-quality meat is part of your family's tradition for celebrating the Spring holidays, this year you might want to order some directly from a LocalHarvest farmer.

Painted Mountain Corn. Aji Dulce Peppers. Emerald Green Velvet Okra. Haley's Purple Comet Tomato. Even the names are beautiful. We have about 600 kinds of vegetable seeds in our catalog. Now's the time! And don't miss our live plant department! We have some unusual offerings there as well.

Not planting a garden this year? Join a CSA!

CSAware: Time to Take a Look?

CSA Farmers: It's a great time of year to consider upgrading your business processes, it's not too late to see if CSAware can help. We are always happy to talk with you about our software give you an online tour. Let us know if you are interested in hearing more about how CSAware could assist you!

Food from the Farm: Road Smoothies

One of our CSAware account managers, Angel Dobrow, spent the winter on a long road trip. She managed to work from a dozen states, while also dropping in on some of our CSAware farmers. She offered to contribute this month's recipe, one she developed on her trip.