This year I am volunteering at two local farms, helping each farm one morning every week. I've been helping Farmer Renee at New Roots Farm in Newmarket for many years and this year I also started helping Farmer Kate at Stout Oak Farm in Brentwood. I fill trays will soil, plant seeds, thin seedlings, transplant seedlings into bigger cells, plant outside, and as the season goes along I'll add weeding and harvesting and more planting.
As I work with the soil and the plants I listen to the chickens clucking from their free range pen and to the songs of wild birds. I bend and stretch and walk up and down rows. We work in the greenhouse when it rains and outdoors when it doesn't. I often go home with a couple seedlings for my own garden, or a dozen fresh eggs, or some new knowledge about farming, or perhaps just admiration for these hardworking, organic farmers.
Today at Stout Oak Farm I helped Kate and her assistant Joanne plant three kinds of beets and several types of lettuce. Last week we planted rows and rows of various kales, five kinds I think. Such beauty and diversity in these local farm fields, so much more than you find in a grocery store.
In between planting beets and lettuce, I thinned trays of Swiss chard and lettuce in the greenhouse. Several seeds are planted in each cell to ensure sufficient germination. Sometimes all the seeds germinate and thus need to be thinned to one sturdy seedling per cell. The stems removed are saved and eaten -- the first fresh greens of the season. I brought home a bag of the thinnings, a small treasure really.
At New Roots, Renee is a master at growing tomatoes. Yesterday I spent the morning transplanting tomato seedlings into bigger cells. All sorts of tomatoes: San Marzano, green zebra, garden peach, sun gold, sweet olive, and a hybrid named BHN 589--a better name will come apparently if it does well. There were many more kinds waiting to be transplanted. Sitting alone in the greenhouse surrounded by tomato plants while rain rattled the plastic roof I felt fortunate to be in this cozy place.