March 31, 2012
The past few months have been incredibly busy at the farm. We realized a hair too late that we didn’t have our equipment situation quite set up, and had to scramble to figure out how we were going to till and shape our beds this year. Last year we contracted out our bed-shaping and planted on 60” wide beds. This year, we realized that we’d like to use a tractor for weeding, but the only tractor we have available creates 44” wide beds, which would only smash the edges of our current beds. So we reached out to some local farmers for advice, suggestions, and help. Mike Madison lent us his chisel plow. Chris Hay lent us a tool bar and some furrowing shovels and discs for bed shaping. And our landlord Rich Collins decided that he needed a rototiller for his tractor anyway. So he bought one, and we get to borrow it. Now we were set up to take down our old beds and build some new ones. How lucky are we?
I’ve wanted to write this entry about gratitude and generosity for a while now. Since we started on this crazy venture, we’ve all been blown away at how generous and supportive the greater farming community has been around us. Rich giving us a deal on the land, the orchard, providing us with irrigation tanks, and letting us use his equipment was in itself an incredibly generous gesture, and the only way that we were able to make this farm work in the first place. But so many other people have helped us along the way; we decided that we need to share these experiences.

It started with Carl Rosato, renowned organic peach farmer, famous for his incredible flavor and quality, (of his peaches, that is) agreeing to come out and give us some advice on pruning our peach orchard. Carl came down on the way to EcoFarm and I met him at the orchard to prune some trees. He worked over two entire trees with me, explaining his decisions at each cut.

Carl giving me a peach pruning lesson

It was invaluable to get these lessons from a master, to have them on video, and know where we stood in his opinion. It turns out Carl is also a soils guru, and he happily interpreted our soils tests during a two hour chat with Aubrey at EcoFarm. She walked away from that with a sheet full of calculations on amendments that we needed to add. Like I said, how lucky are we?

In the last two months we’ve gained so many mentors, notably Carl (who patiently answers our emails and desperate phone calls), and Mike Madison. Mike feeds us a delicious meal and then lets us barrage him with questions, and was ready with advice and equipment when we were stuck.

Mike helping us load his chisel plow to borrow

Paul Underhill of Terra Firma asks us the questions that none of us have thought of yet, and answers our emails at midnight. Chris Hay invites us over to explore his array of equipment, patiently explains how he uses each one and whether it would be useful to us or not. Then he sends us home with bags of grapefruit (and an attachment for our tractor).

Empty tool bar that Chris lent us – looks better with discs and shovels

And last but not least is Rich, our landlord and yet another mentor, who lets us cut our teeth on a brand new rototiller (that story in a few weeks) and sends us off with a hacksaw to cut the PTO shaft to the right length, calling behind us, “Just make sure you measure more than once!” with his typical good-natured wink and huge smile.

We don’t even know how we can possibly start repaying these people, to whom we owe such a debt of gratitude for sharing their knowledge, expertise, implements, and most importantly, their time. Theoretically we are all competitors, and there’s absolutely no good business reason for them to help us out so much. But the world needs more farmers, and from this perspective, it makes sense for the farming community to stick together and help each other out. Maybe the best way to say thank you is to take their lessons and turn them into skills, do our best to make this farm a success, grow good food, survive in the market, and make this farm work. So, here we go. A huge thank you to all of our mentors for your time and efforts. We hope to make you proud!

posted by marisa

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