Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Visit to the Bean Farm

As I slowly get deeper into this world of farming one thing that is interesting is how different various farms can be.  Big, small, diversified, focused, intensive, spacious, livestock, integrated, organic, non-organic, commercial, homesteading...these variables only touch the surface.  Sometimes the farms have their own utterly unique character, an unpredictable outgrowth of the farmer's personality, resources, luck, land and the irreducible mysteries of life and time.

Today we had another CRAFT visit to a neighboring farm.  This farm does a few heirloom tomatoes and vegetables but mostly they grow dried beans, specializing in unusual heirloom varieties like vermont cranberry, soldier, calypso or jacob's cattle.  Charlie, the farmer, has a full-time corporate job outside of farming, but found his way into it through part-time farmer friends of his decades ago who were growing beans in Maine.  Somewhere along the way he developed a passion for growing many different kinds of beans, often strains that were hard to come by or in danger of disappearing.  Now he grows them not only for market but also for seed and sells his beans to many seed companies, helping to perpetuate them and get them into the hands of other farmers and gardeners. 

These beans are often very beautiful.  Most of the well-known beans we all get at the supermarket are somewhat plain, if not monochromatic, but many of the varieties Charlie grows have startling colors and patterns.  I can't remember the name of it but he showed us one that was almost all white except for a small, marbled splotch of deep magenta.  Another had rich brown and green stripes along it, another was an unusual, gentle shade of green shading slowly into white.  

Charlie clearly also has a passion for old farm machinery and farm auctions.  He had several interesting old tractors with various implements, for plowing, cultivation, seeding and harvesting.  He even had a couple of combines, a type of machine that we don't (to my knowledge) use on Appleton, as its function is to cut up entire harvested plants and separate the seeds from the rest.  This is generally for dried beans and grains, which we don't grow.

It is a very interesting niche that he has carved out for himself.  I could talk about it quite a bit more, but I'm ready to read a bit and go to bed.  Sorry! 

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