The economy of movement
November 8, 2011
Some things I’ve learned this season I’ve learned from the process of farming. They were not taught to me formally, but I have come to know and inhabit them. I learned an economy of movement from my body, as it learned to work efficiently, divide labor amongst other bodies, and as it committed tasks to memory. Economic movement shows in farmers who are never standing around yet are always of use.
Efficient body knowledge became ingrained throughout the season as we learned to double task in the wash station, separate into pullers (who yank storage roots up from the ground) and cutters (who cut off the tops for storage), and dig potatoes. This body economy worked its way into my mode of thought. What is the most efficient way to finish the crop’s harvest? To help others finish their beet bands or pick up the beets already bunched? It depends on the number of bands on everyone’s wrists, the number of bunches on the ground, how many other people have finished their bands as well, what crop is next, and where the other crew members are. This type of thinking came up in conversation with fellow apprentices as we discussed the best ways to get the work done, questioning and also praising our farm manager.
I think about it in my every day life too — how to efficiently clean a room, prepare for a party, or can food. The other day I had to make an emergency spinach delivery to Henrietta’s Table in Harvard Sq. I had my boyfriend along. There were two totes of spinach behind each of us and one in the trunk. Without consciously thinking about it, I had already reasoned the best way to grab the totes. Open the trunk. Grab the two totes from the back seat and stack them on the one in the trunk. No big deal. But when Seth got out of the car he kind of stood around…came back to the trunk…got a little confused that I hadn’t grabbed the totes from the backseat, and walked over to my side of the car. Seth probably wasted very little time not executing my plan on the passenger side, but the point is that my body (and mind) have been conditioned to behave this way while his haven’t been farming for a season. This type of conditioning is very important in farming, especially as a manager. Matt thinks seriously about how many labor hours each job will take and splits us up accordingly, even considering the personality and body advantages of the crew members.
The apprentices have caught on a little. We know what a one-woman job looks like, and how to divide the labor among more people right at the point where there is room. Here’s a funny example. Three of us were washing vegetables. Seth and I were spraying roots and Abby was dunking greens. Once the greens were clean Abby had nothing to do, really. She laughed as she turned diakon radishes for me, so as not to be standing around. And it went faster! Ideally, it would have just been two people in the wash station so no one had to think too hard about how to be useful.
Everyone has an economy of movement in their bodies. It shows in walking, crossing the street, folding laundry, resting…in everything. The efficiency of our organs interacting, our fingers typing, of preparing food….are all cultivatable though hardly thought about.