Farming is an act of hope. Farmers work long, hard hours, cultivating and caring for the crops they grow, the people they employ, and the soil they tend. They do everything they can to ensure a bountiful harvest, enough to feed their family, sell to their community, and all while caring for the land. But they can't control nature and every year, at a certain point, they have to let go. And hope.
These last few weeks have challenged us. The world feels like a powder-keg and the misery and destruction has left us heartbroken. In times like these, it's hard to hold space for hope. And yet, my recent visit to our farmer, Ed, has reminded me of its importance. Without it we have no reason to plant the seeds that nurture and lead to positive change.
Ed greeted me with a big hug and his usual smile, brimming from ear to ear. Wearing shorts, t- shirt, and a baseball cap, Ed is the definition of affable. The moment you connect with Ed, you feel at ease. Harvesting is one of busiest times of the year for farmers, with every activity constrained by the threat of the next rainfall, but Ed was relaxed and generous with his time. He explained the harvest process, cutting the plant first below the roots and then, a couple of weeks later (and once the plant has dried), gathering the beans up with a thresher. This machine lifts, separates, and funnels the beans into 50lb feed bags. These bags are then dropped back onto the ground to be picked up later by others.
I was struck by the incredible skill and resilience it takes to see planting and growing through to harvest. Ed has the right temperament to deal with the bumps along the way. According to Ed, harvesting has to be done at just the right moment. If you wait too long and the plants are too dry, the beans crack. And if you try to harvest the beans when they’re wet, you will destroy the thresher and the beans. "You could have a season and do everything right and, if there is sustained rain with no drying-off days, a whole crop could be ruined," Ed explained.
"You could have a season and do everything right and, if there is sustained rain with no drying-off days, a whole crop could be ruined."
- Ed Cohen
As Ed walked with me, he shared the other challenges he’s faced this year. The new thresher he’d splurged on proved to be ineffective on his fields because of the way he organically farms. Mid-harvest, he had to revert back to his older thresher - a piece of equipment (literally) held together in places with duct tape and string.
Most devastating to my ears was the news that, due to early rains that promoted the growth of nightshade berry, the yield of our beloved Zuni Golds would be greatly reduced, with potentially only enough harvested for seed for the following year.
Still, with all these setbacks, Ed didn't seem phased and spent the next hour chatting about topics as varied as farming, running, family, and music. In his supposed time of stress and pressing demands, Ed helped me feel more calm and connected - a gift beyond the obvious.
I left Ed’s farm with even more appreciation for what our farmers experience getting food to our tables, several bags of beans on which to feast when home, and, most important of all, hope. I'm going to hang on to that feeling as best I can.