Cog in a wheel hoe
September 11, 2011
My most important job as an apprentice is to put my head down and work, to do what I’m told. Fast and well. There is endless work on the farm. More to harvest, more to weed and wheel hoe, more to carpet in cover crop. When the apprentices leave for the day the farm managers push on, finishing tasks we couldn’t complete, prepping the wash station for the next day, harvesting sunflowers for the farmers market. They know what needs to be done, in what order, and the requisite manpower. Me, I know how to perform the tasks. With the season three quarters of the way through I’m over the hump of the learning curve. Yet still I’m a bit slower than the managers, find myself in the field without things I need, and have lots of questions. I’m in my first season farming. I’m a novice.
I know I’ve got to pay my dues, get more skills under my belt, take instructions. I know how important it is to work quickly, and the importance of efficiency on a farm. That is my job and I am proud to do it. But it is also impersonal and humbling. Sometimes I feel that any person could do my job, that I could be easily replaced, save for the learning curve. Nothing on the farm is my responsibility, stems from my creativity, or is an expression of my agricultural dreams. I long to write CSA newsletters or start a mushroom growing operation or plant an apple tree. I want to direct a harvest. I want to be included in farm decisions.
I had a chance to carve out my niche at the beginning of the season. We needed a flower girl. Someone to direct the harvests, arrange and sell flowers at the market, and perhaps expand the operation. I didn’t step up to the plate. I didn’t want to step on the toes of another apprentice who also found the responsibility appealing. More than that, I wanted to be awarded the position because I deserved it, not because I egotistically chose myself. Alas, it passed me by. For weeks after it was hard for me to be with the flower girl, who does a great job and is a wonderful person. I was devastated.
Sometimes on Sunday afternoons and after arduous days on the farm, my emotional weariness comes to the surface. I love my job, honestly. I’m lamenting the coming of fall and frost, the down-shifting gears, the close of my greenhorn season. But I expect the winter will be a time of rejuvination, of coming to terms with what I need and how I can be me farming.