I really look up to my friend Paul. He practices what he preaches, trying harder than anyone else I know to be truly sustainable in his everyday life. He rides his bike absolutely everywhere and seems to know a little bit about just about everything, like computing and cameras and word origins.
Most of the time Paul doesn’t buy anything he doesn’t need, and usually I don’t either. This week, though, we set a goal together: We will only buy food and goods from Washington. So it’s Washington Week! Since it’s summertime, it should be pretty easy to get local produce from any of the many farmers markets in town or the Olympia Food Co-op, where you’ll generally find me at least once a day.
So far for my two meals today, I’ve just been eating up my leftovers. Washington Week might get a little interesting later on in the week when I run out of groceries. Check back, and I’ll update about some of the meals I’ve been making.
It is not generally advisable to stomp on your produce, unless perhaps you’re making wine. Yesterday, though, I was stepping on onions in the field and getting paid to do it…
Let me back up. I’m lucky enough to have two jobs I love, one of which is working for Evergreen’s Office of Admissions. The other I just started. Back in July, when I was looking for a second job to supplement my summer work for Evergreen, Melissa, the farm manager at school, suggested that I call the farms on the Thurston County Direct Sales Farm Map. This brochure is a resource for customers seeking local produce, milk, and meat fresh from the farm. As I’ve come to realize, Olympia is a Mecca for those interested in sustainable agriculture. So far, I’ve made a lot of connections through the PSA program, which has been a means of navigating the ocean of small-scale, alternative producers and marketers in the area.
One of the farms that returned my call was Pigman’s Organic Produce Patch. So I’ve been working there for the past two Saturdays, and it’s great so far. Much of what I do is harvesting and bunching produce, which I learned how to do while in class on the Evergreen farm. Since I already have the experience of prepping for market, I’m generally pretty confident that I’m performing these tasks correctly, and if I’m not, I know the right questions to ask. I’m so happy to be doing what I love, working close to the land to nourish and sustain people, not to mention to be getting paid to do what I’ve been studying for the past few years!
So, anyway, to get back to the onions, this past Saturday I was out in the field at Pigman’s knocking over onion tops with my feet. While I could have used a rake, using my feet was more effective and satisfying. (Good tip for gardeners: This helps the tops to die back and also protects the bulb from soaking up water in the case of a late-season rain.) Balancing on one foot and then hopping onto the other, it really felt like I was doing some kind of onion jig. I had a good time, and lucky I did the jig because it rained here last night.
So far I haven’t written about much else besides the program I’m taking right now, PSA. It’s summer, which is primary work season on the farm. Hopefully that will change soon, though. Summer quarter is ramping up, meaning I have a bunch of cumulative assignments due pretty soon. I’m actually pretty excited to put together a compilation of my work for the quarter. Throughout the past ten weeks, we’ve been crafting individual pieces of farm and business plans for ourselves. Each student has written a mission statement, a vision and values, and goals for our farm or business. Now we’ll add that to our final product description, pricing strategies, and information about our distribution, packaging, customers, and promotion to create a final business plan.
The business plan is distinct from the farm plan, which incorporates an annual production plan for a CSA, markets, or wholesale; nutrient management for the crops we intend to grow, a wish list of farm resources (like greenhouses), management of water resources, weed and pest control strategies, and perennial planning. For this assignment, we have a great opportunity to communicate to faculty and classmates a clear set of goals for our future farm. Personally, I’ve decided that after I graduate from Evergreen, I intend to start a nonprofit in my hometown of Buffalo, New York. This organization will serve as a community wellness and education center promoting organic gardening methods, traditional skills, and food preservation. I would also like to establish ties with local schools to set up a program in which students can work on community and garden projects for school credit. When I’m finished with these assignments, I’ll post my final farm and business plans on here for you all to read.
I also have to work on my portfolio, which is a standard component of most Evergreen programs. At the end of every quarter, students compile all of the assignments they’ve completed, along with a work log, so that faculty have a chance to look back at students’ work when writing their individual evaluations. Though tests are rare at Evergreen, PSA is also going to be having a final exam. We’ll be able to use our lecture notes and field notebooks, though, as rote memorization is not such an important part of the learning that takes place here.
Lise Hubbe demonstrates a walk-behind plow to students in The Practice of Sustainable Agriculture and community members. (Photo taken by Karissa Carlson for The Evergreen State College.)
(Photo taken by Karissa Carlson for The Evergreen State College.)
It has been an exciting few weeks down on the Evergreen Organic Farm! The plants are growing like crazy, and our CSA is in full swing. On July 31st and August 1st, we were especially lucky to have teamster Lise Hubbe of Sweet Mill Farm with us. Our program first met Lise on our field trip to the Small Farmer’s Journal Horsedrawn Auction and Swap Meet in Madras, Oregon, way back in spring quarter. This time Lise visited us to demonstrate animal draft power on small farms, bringing along her two work horses, Grace and June.
Lise was such an inspirational speaker. She discussed all of the practical topics related to driving a team of horses, from the process of trimming their feet to what equipment and clothing is necessary for a teamster. More than that though, she also explained the spiritual aspects of working with horses. To be a good teamster requires patience, confidence, and groundedness. Lise does not simply tell her horses what to do, she asks them to work, and they cooperate gladly. The relationship is mutually beneficial; Lise cares for them and oversees their wellbeing, while the horses help to prepare and cultivate fields for growing. It is trust more than anything that bolsters their working relationship. Like a good coach, Lise draws her horses to the edge of their ability and then pushes them a little further. In this way the horses gain strength and endurance, expanding out from their comfort zone. If we “shoot for really good,” Lise says, we might not get all the way there, but we sure will be delighted with where we do end up.
Grace and June plow away while students watch. That's me in the middle! (Photo taken by Karissa Carlson for The Evergreen State College.)
Students even got to try their hands at directing the plow! (Photo taken by Michael Nolen.)
Joe and Georgia check out the soil structure of the plowed field. (Photo taken by Karissa Carlson for The Evergreen State College.)
June, Grace, and Lise. (Photo taken by Karissa Carlson for The Evergreen State College.)