Fresh Facts 45: Farming is Asking Why

Year after year, soil, water, and sunlight stay the same, but in farming, everything else changes: the market, the technology, the weather. Thus, farmers who continue to put themselves to the task of growing food must also take on the titles of  risktaker, innovator, engineer, and problem solver.

    Amy Beth here taking over for Uncle Vern this week. After several years of checking in with your AHO farmers to get their stories out to you good people, from my observations, it is possibly impossible and most assuredly highly improbable that a farmer would ever get bored.

   (Whether or not they’d like to be bored on occasion is a question I won’t presume to answer. You could ask them yourself though, as Uncle Vern often points out, your farmers’ contact info is listed on the back of the newsletter.)

    Your farmer Dave Mendrin at JND Farms in Madera (the grower of those amazingly sweet and perfectly sized watermelon this season) puts it this way: “Farming is asking why. You walk the rows and you see something going on with the plants and you ask why. You ask and you keep asking until you go crazy or until you figure it out.”

   Currently Dave is asking why about the different growing patterns for a few different patches of bell peppers in his family’s new greenhouses. I’m sure he’ll figure it out.

   The newly erected cathedrals of pipe, plastic, and shade cloth that stand guard on the back acreage of his home ranch are the newest evidence of the no-boredom-in-farming factor for JND. The landscape of the ranch is otherwise flat, dotted with melons, potatoes, squash, heatwaves from the summer sun, and clouds of dust from the tractor.

   The greenhouses give JND the ability to further diversity the offerings of the farm. From the greenhouses: bell peppers of impressive size may end up in your boxes this year, the delicate long English cucumbers that can only be grown in a greenhouse have already made a few rounds, and late season sweet corn is also a possibility. Believe it or not, this time of year it’s actually cooler (because of the breeze and the shade cloth) in some of the houses than the uninhibited out of doors.

    Dave spent two years researching, visiting greenhouses and talking to greenhouse farmers before adding the structures to his ranch. They bent the pipe and built them all themselves. Currently, he smiles and says about the first year’s greenhouse crops, “this is research and development.”

  Dave walks through the rows of cucumber plants crawling up guide wires and explains the methods they’re trying, what they’re learning, and that yes, they might find out after this season that they would do it all differently the next. This part of farming is science and business with all the risk and vulnerability of art wrapped up in one package—putting it all out there on the line: financial investment, heart and labor and hopes, and waiting to see what the results will yield, what the fruit will be. Will they like it? Was it worth it? How can we improve?

   Supporting that kind of vulnerability, risk-taking, and innovating deserves a hearty thanks. So: THANK YOU for supporting your AHO farmers! Thanks for valuing what they do. Most assuredly, their non-boredom in the field is resulting in your non-boredom in the kitchen. Drop them a line and as Uncle Vern would say, eat healthy!!!

Author Uncle Vern

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