Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Milking It

They're falling like flies in the organic farming biz this year.
It's not even October yet, not by my calendar, anyway, and already a number of farms have packed up their EZ Ups for the season.
It's ugly. It's obscene. It's downright pathetic, at times. Farmers wander aimlessly across the parking lot at the co-op, then duck behind their trucks and sob like babies. I can't go on, they cry. They curse the last bit of bok choi on their tables, throw it to the ground and pack up to go home. Or to seek out strong drink.
Those few pathetic fools who have CSAs are locked in to a set date - another two weeks, maybe - and can't quit, not without returning money they've already spent and never expect to see again. Serves them right. Any fool who commits himself to a CSA should be stapled to a sign alongside an interstate and not pried loose until his last shriveled bit of dandelion greens is bagged and paid for.
But that's another issue. What's at issue now is empty fields.
It's fall. The days are short and the mornings are long and the fescue goes to seed a week after it's been mowed and is only three inches tall. Harlequin bugs eat down any green that you started too late and got in the ground as an afterthought. The tomato vines are gooey and falling over and hidden by ragweed. Green beans hang from leaves eaten translucent by beetles, and the peppers cave in from sun scald. The only things worth harvesting are potatoes and butternut squash, and a case of those won't buy a gallon of gas.
One farm dropped out weeks ago, and two more went down today. A few will pretend to make a show of it on Saturday and then disappear. The CSA people are staring at their calendars, positive its a week later than it is. When their final date rolls around they'll crawl into a hole in the ground and come out after they get snowed on.
No one wants to pick anymore, and no one wants to drive to market, and no one wants to deal with customers. Not anymore. We've been doing that since April, and it was just barely fun, then.
I'm feeling remarkably ambivalent, myself. I could go on a while, or I could hang it all up tonight. There's years when all I want to do is keep going - pick anything anywhere and put it on the table. Ironweed bouquets! Acorns! Anything! The idea is to keep going and never call it quits. Other years there's such a sorry lot of green stuff scattered across the fields that I seek any excuse to shut everything down. Can't go, the truck got stolen. Can't go, gotta drive to Pittsburgh.
This year I'm feeling as though I'd like to close out October, but, then again, if I could go to Texas tomorrow I'd gas up the truck and take off. (I'm bound for Texas in mid-November to sell Christmas trees.) The harvest is just about over. I'm hanging on now by cleaning out the last of the rows - milking it out one more week and then one more by pulling leeks that have been passed over for a month or two, or digging for potatoes I may have missed the first time. I'm going to keep it going as long as I can, because: that's what I feel like doing.
We're a motley crew at best, but at this time of year we get downright ugly. We show up late and the tables are skimpy and we don't have time for stupid questions. A few of the rich kids are still going strong, but they'll get theirs. They'll die and suffer an eternity of pain and torture and question why they laundered their table cloths every week, but they don't think about that now. No, not now. They've still got stuff to pick, and they loose sight of larger realities.
Once upon a time a wind picked up somewhere east of the Sangre de Cristo and blew all the way to Georgia, taking every bit of top soil with it. Every wretched soul who had ever even gazed at a plow was left in ruins. Some went batty and were last seen running off into the dust, others sat on the porch and stared at their blistered and chaffed hands. What few who were left with any mental capacity at all drove to California. Half perished along the way and the other half starved when they got there. This is a tough business in the best of times, and in the worst of times it's downright deadly. God is the House in this business, and any gambler knows you're not gonna beat the House. It lets you win a few hands, just to milk you along, and then strips you bare and throws you out onto the street. You limp home broke and humiliated, but when Springtime rolls around, you throw the dice again.


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