Monday, April 13, 2009

First-day Farmer

I think that it helps if your first day on the farm is a bright and sunny one, even if the wind carries a chill in the morning. By mid-afternoon, however, it was about as nice a day as one could expect this time of year in New England. This was the first official day of work for many of us, and though we had some general orientation talks regarding the overview of the season, expectations, scheduling, safety issues and other topics, we also dove right in with some work.

Let’s see, what did I do today?

First up we went to the greenhouse where I cut off the tops of onion seedlings with a pair of scissors. This encourages root growth, which helps the plants survive and thrive the replanting process. Then I was taken off of that job to assist with the direct sowing of spinach and sugar snap pea seeds (direct sowing is when the seeds go straight into the fields where they will do all of their growing until harvest, as opposed to starting the seeds off in a greenhouse where they will get a gentle, warm and moist start into this often difficult world).

For this we used a tractor, a unit referred to as the “G” (though I asked and got an answer, I’m still not sure why this tractor is called this), with a sowing attachment on the front. I learned how to attach and remove the hopper, which contains the seeds, and how to switch out and rotate the discs that allow you to adjust for the size of the seed and how quickly they are dispersed into the soil.

The tractor was driven out to one of the fields and Melissa, the assistant farm manager, drove the tractor while Theresa (another worker bee like me) and I followed along on foot to make sure everything went smoothly, to stop the tractor if it jammed up and to check the sowing apparatus periodically to make sure that it was getting seeds into the ground properly. We started with three or four rows of spinach (a popular crop with our shareholders, apparently. I’m not surprised; I love spinach myself). Sowing this way on this farm is generally considered a two person job; one person for the tractor and another to call a halt and clear and/or fix the machinery if something goes astray.

After a nice lunch and some more introductory talks and paperwork, we went back out to the fields to sow sugar snap peas. These are some of the largest seeds we use, and are, of course, just peas, but a bit dried up and shriveled. This time I got to drive the tractor myself, after getting acquainted with the clutch, gear shifter and hydraulics and some general tractor tips and safety issues. For the peas, we would drive down one row sowing, and then cover the same row again in order to sow at a high enough density to ensure that enough seeds germinate to grow enough delicious sugar snap peas for our shareholders.

I will have to get a hold of some serious moisturizer for my hands and remember that the sun can be pretty intense even in April. At least I dressed warm enough! I’ve been out birding in April too many times (or to too many April Red Sox games) to not take the possibility of a nasty, wet chill seriously.

Anyway, it was an excellent first day on the farm, and frankly, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I have no idea what I’ll be doing.


Nikki said...

Looking forward to learning all that you learn! I was always pestering our CSA farmer about techniques, time management, etc. Glad the sun decided to participate in the first day, too.

Nick said...

awesome! I'm a bit jealous.