Stories from the Farm: Our six interns speak up
This week marks the end of the first month of our summer internship, and today our six interns chime in with stories from the farm: a comparison of financing to farming, letting farm produce decide what’s for dinner, an explanation of why kohlrabi is the coolest vegetable ever, and more. Click to find out more:
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I spent last summer as an intern at a major multinational corporation. Turns out I’m pretty good at making spreadsheets, reading legislation and performing other tasks that help companies improve their bottom line. At the end of my time there I was rewarded with a cash bonus. Admittedly, that felt pretty cool. Now I’m working on the Yale Farm. Here, though, there are no cash bonuses, and our goal isn’t to make money zip around faster than the other guys. We have different things in mind. Today at check-in, for example, Daniel remarked that I make a mean soil block and said that I should show others my technique. The little squares of earth might evoke an Excel workbook, but the similarities end there. Instead, they are filled with seeds which will hopefully germinate and eventually produce food. As I thought about his remark later in the day, I realized that it meant more than any cash bonus possibly could. I don’t know what happened to my database entries or memos at my old job. I do know, however, that my soil blocks- fashioned tightly and crafted with care- will be a nice home for a baby plant one day soon. That’s a bottom line I can get behind.
The best part about being a farm intern so far is watching things grow; seeing your first seedlings poke through the soil can make you feel somewhat like a proud first-time parent. It never ceases to amaze me how one tiny, unassuming seed can become a head of lettuce or a tomato plant that can reach from the ground up to the very top of the hoop house (and would probably keep on going if there was room). Even more amazing, though, is the fact that this process requires no magic trick, no special touch, and that anyone – even me – can set the wheels in motion (well, more or less anyway) with a little training.
It became clear within minutes of stepping off the bus at Massaro Farm for our first field trip that Steve, the farm’s manager, is a born teacher. He is also a born farmer. Disarmingly friendly and reassuringly collected, Steve succeeded in breaking down Massaro’s initially overwhelming sixty acres of farmland for us into the manageable units through which he approached the land himself (it also helped that only 4 of these acres were being planted this season). One thing that struck me as we set to work hoeing weeds in Massaro’s massive forty-inch beds was that despite the obvious differences in scale between Massaro and the Yale Farm, most of the obstacles faced and the techniques used to solve them were easily transferrable. Steve still has to churn up his soil before replanting, but the size of his operation demands that he use a tractor instead of a broadfork. Steve, like Daniel, had a well thought-out crop plan and was ready with a justification for each vegetable’s placement, and Steve intends to implement the same kind of crop rotation we rely on at the Yale Farm to keep his soil healthy and catch pests off guard. It was comforting to learn that though our single acre at the Yale Farm can often feel like too much to keep track of, the skills we’ve picked up in the last few weeks would prove just as useful on a farm two, four, or even sixty times our size.
I confess: I am obsessed with food to a ridiculous degree. I spend my free time pouring through cookbooks and food blogs to find new dishes to try. One point on a longs list of things I love about the farm is that it is a constant source of inspiration for new recipes and menu planning. For example, while planting those tomatoes and cucumbers, all I could think was GAZPACHO. Also, after harvesting the fava beans I contemplated making an awesome Fabada Asturiana. I love challenging myself to plan my dinner around what is available on the farm each day. So, let’s say I come into work and learn we have bolting bok choy.
It’s no longer marketable, but it is still not only edible, but delicious. I decide to take some home for dinner. And here is where the fun begins. As I work through the garden, part of me is hunting for the best ingredients to complement the bok choy. While cultivating the Alliums, I see the garlic scapes are mature. They will go perfectly. As I’m prepping a bed by the snap peas, I pick one off the vine. It’s quite possibly the most delicious pea I have ever tasted, and it must be part of my dinner. And as I’m on my way to transplant lettuce… Oh, hello there, cilantro. You’re coming home with me. This is my favorite way to cook. The produce I use is in its freshest, sweetest, most flavorful state. It’s a little embarrassing how excited I get about these vegetables. They are so EXCELLENT, and I’m pumped to cook with them all.
Here at the Yale Farm we’re prepared for anything. Snow, rain, sun, pests and pernicious purslane. Pictured is an example of a Yale Farm Intern (Yasha) who knows better than anyone else the importance of a flexible and alert approach to mother nature’s vicissitudes. Sustainable agriculture in New England, we have learned, must account for and continue in spite of freezing cold or stifling humidity. Tools like the flame weeder confidently hoisted on Yasha’s back help us maintain flexibility in the face of such contingencies. Other examples of ways in which we cope with the difficulties presented by the New England climate and environment include our plastic-covered hoop-house (which protects the tomatoes from rain in the summer, and doubles as a zero-input greenhouse in the winter) and our crop-rotation system, designed to confuse pests by moving around the crop plantings each year. Whatever nature decides to throw our way, we’ll be sure to find some solution that does not include unsustainable inputs like fertilizers and pesticides.
5 Reasons Why Kohl Rabi Is The Best Vegetable At The Yale Farm:
1)The main part of it can be used as a turnip or cabbage when cooked (as in borscht), as a salad turnip or radish when sliced onto a salad, or as an apple when eaten raw in the field.
2)Like a radish or salad turnip, the leaves can be cooked, but unlike both those vegetables, its leaves are not prickly.
3)Because it grows above the ground, as opposed to beets, radishes, or turnips, it requires little cleaning before eating. This also makes it easy to tell when it is ripe.
4)As opposed to some other vegetables I could mention (without naming spinach, for instance), kohl rabi fills you up.
5)It looks like an alien spaceship, and its name is derived from the phrase “Cool Rabbi”. Enough said.