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Farming and the Local Food Scene: A Mid-season Reflection

Up until this last week, there hasn’t been much time to stop and reflect on how the farm season has been going. Working outside eight hours a day, especially during the hottest July on record, leaves me little room for contemplation when I get home. However, since I’ve been able to take off these past two weeks for two consecutive family vacations, I’ve been able to reflect on how my relationship with farming has grown (mostly from the comfort of air conditioning, or the crisp and cool Vermont weather).

We’ve finished picking blueberries, which is an activity that I feel sad to part with. Not only are blueberries my favorite fruit, the blueberry bushes are where I’ve gotten to know the farm crew. The secrecy of eight-foot-tall bushes invites conversations that just don’t happen out in the open. It also helps that since it’s a task where your goal is to pick every single ripe berry, you’re not moving very fast.

Other than the blueberries I don’t miss the process of harvesting any other vegetable or fruit the farm grows. Blackberries were great for the first few days, but were soon more sour than sweet; strawberries were thought to be finished in late May, and sure enough put another flush of flowers out in June. We had a lousy crop of cantaloupes due to cucurbit downy mildew, a microbial disease that travels up from the Gulf of Mexico and loves North Carolina’s hot and humid climate. However, the farm has produced thousands of pounds of the area’s finest tomatoes. We’ve had a month of beautiful heirlooms, with Cherokee Purples easily taking the prize for best-all-around eating tomato. Since the beginning of tomato time, we’ve been eating tomato sandwiches at the farm nearly every day. I was more than happy to eat them every single day. Now the heirlooms have been finished for the past few weeks and we’ve moved on to a different lunch menu.

Farming still seems to be a great fit for my life. After canning 18 quarts of tomatoes with my girlfriend, freezing bags of onions that have overtaken our freezer space, and processing chickens that were raised by one of the farm crew members, I only want to learn more. There’s so much to learn about how to create a more affordable, accessible local and organic food network, and farming in general to keep me busy for years to come.

Laura Stephenson is an environmental science graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she focused in environmental and community health. She is currently working full-time at a small, organic farm outside of Hillsborough, North Carolina called Maple Spring Gardens. Laura writes the Farming and the Local Food Scene series about her experiences with local farms and farmers around the Piedmont area of North Carolina.

Posted on: August 21, 2012, 6:00 am Category: Farming and the Local Food Scene Tagged with: ,

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