Lessons from Production

August 22, 2010


In late July and early August, Whitney and I spent a fair bit of time and away from the farm traveling. Consequently, I had grown out of touch with the garden. This past weekend I was able to invest a sizable amount of time reconnecting with it. Our Needs Eatin’ week was so successful in large part because the garden has been producing. After weeks of suspense, our tomato and pepper plants have taken off. The green beans have been steady, and cucumbers are doing well, staving off the bugs that have devastated related plants. Those of us who can consume soy recently enjoyed a small harvest of edamame.

I took some time this morning to capture a photographic sampling of the garden’s current state; I’ve compiled these photos in an album called Fruits of Our Labor. In this album, I chose to display some of the more successful and attractive results from our planting, watering, weeding, debugging (ha!), and general attention.

Not all of the garden looks this good, however. Some of the tomato plants, for instance, are starting to slow; they seem to be suffering from a common fungal disease that will eventually kill them. (Worry not, the fruit is still good.) Our earliest green beans are in decline. The corn has been underwhelming. The peanuts never even germinated! So far, the garden has been a mixed bag of success and, well, middling success.

While we can cope with underwhelming crop production, others might not be so fortunate. One take-away I have from gardening is an appreciation for the risk that subsistence and larger-scale farmers take when they embark in agriculture. When crop failure literally means less food on the table or a deflated income at the end of the harvest, the difficulties of growing food become much more striking. (One way we’ve been able to share in this risk with area farmers is through our CSA. Before we receive any of our weekly produce allotments, we start paying into our season-long food “subscription,” and receive less if our CSA is unable to produce as much as originally intended — of course, if the harvest is plentiful, then so is our return.)

All this is to say that our successes and lack thereof in the garden have been learning experiences for me. I don’t mean to imply that the garden is finished for the season. This morning we starting planting for the fall: lettuce, spinach, broccoli and green beans. There’s always more to grow, more to learn, and, of course, more to weed.