July 28, 2012 at 12:57 AM
"Just about three months ago, my partner and I became interns on a five-acre organic farm..."
Matthew Irwin is a freelance writer and farmers' apprentice living in Alcalde, NM.
This entry is the first of a weekly blog about the author’s experiences as an intern on an area farm. The entry concludes with the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market Report, which provides an overview of goods headed to market each week.
Just about three months ago, my partner and I became interns on a five-acre organic farm in Alcalde. We moved to the farm, called Mer-Girl Gardens, with our newborn in search of a more integrative lifestyle, one in which we could both raise our baby and both earn a living by producing something of intimate and innate value to ourselves and our community. We wanted to connect the place we live with our means of affording it; to assign home with more purpose than a place to go at the end of the day to escape from the labors we’d performed to pay for it. People work all week for the privilege of tending to their gardens and spending time with their families, and when our child came, neither of us wanted to be those people any longer.
I had additional motives for wanting to move to a farm: in graduate school, I studied creative writing in the Black Mountain College tradition. A professor encouraged me to build a garden, to work with my hands, reconnecting the abstract ideas of my right brain with the technical knowhow of my left. A garden requires study, patience, intuition and physical labor; it has structure, form and content. And if you study etymology, you understand that many words for literature share origins with words for the field. Check out “verse” and “tragedy.” So my garden had become a weekend hobby and I dressed a few salads with the vegetables of my labor. But I began to feel that growing food could really only benefit my writing if it benefited me; if I put myself in a position where it became as vital as the writing.
Over the last few months at Mer-Girl Gardens, many of my ideas have been shattered and reconfigured like a mosaic. As any farmer will tell you, the work is hard, but it’s also pleasurable, mindful and rewarding. You can look up a row of freshly weeded beds and know that you made a difference; you can take a five second break in the middle of the field to mash peaches into your face; and you can sleep in peace at night. But you have to wake up early and jump back at it. Weeding and mowing and picking are constant, physically demanding pursuits; the sun is hot all day and the tasks themselves are decidedly unimportant feeling. Anybody could weed or mulch or pick, you think, but they couldn’t. At times, I can’t, especially if I look up to see how much is left to do.
The challenges continue to mount up, especially in the region between my limitations (mostly mental) and Farmer Ron’s expectations. He has told me that he can see how much I enjoy the work, how much I contemplate my surroundings, but that a farm also has to function. I understand that in theory; I’m here to connect the idea to my motion.
Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Report for Saturday, July 28
Boxcar Farm brings spinach, peas and garlic braids to the market, though not all of their 40 varieties of garlic are represented. They also boast lettuce grown at 8,100 feet in the Sangre de Cristos, “where nights are cool and days never go over 80 degrees.”
Monte Vista Farms
The Monte Vista Farms table features potatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, kale, chard, basil, parsley and garlic scape powder.
Pat Montoya's Family Orchard
Pat Montoya’s brings Red Haven and White Lady peaches, apricots and four varieties of apples, including Yellow Transparent, Paula Reds, Jester Star and Lades. They also have a variety of chili, including local hot and sositoes.
From the Cerrillos Hills, Synergia has red and golden beets with greens, Swiss chard and collard greens as well as red, curly and dinosaur kale. They also feature Elberta peaches, cocozelle zucchini and lavender sachets.
Read more at www.matthewjirwin.com