Week 1, Year 7

It’s the beginning of another CSA season, the seventh, and eight years since we planted the first crop of garlic at 740 McIver Road. Memories of the first few seasons are becoming fairly dim, but the major milestones can be counted on two hands now:

2010- First growing season, & got married in the high tunnel (on risers above the spinach beds).

Added a human boy to the fall harvest accomplishments of 2011.

Bought a farm at the tail-end of 2012, and moved a family and a farm’s worth of ‘stuff’.

2013- First season at the Fort Shaw farm, first winter milking a cow.

And the list goes on. Each year is marked by the various happenings, passing events and  people coming and going. From season to season, the garden and farm changes and grows, as do the annual apprentices and volunteers, adding even more to the diversity the farm.

Last week at the farmer’s market, we were visited by a vision from the past: Our stalwart volunteer from the first year that not only helped get us through that first season, but came back again the second season. We never could have fully compensated her for what she actually contributed, and handing over a bag of vegetables in return felt like a frail attempt. More often than not, she would show up on Friday night before the Farmer’s Market to help finish the harvest after the heat of the day had cooled, or to help dig new potatoes until dark.

Often, when we gather and talk about seasons passed, the discussion is dated by remembering the people who were farming with us during that particular season: Was that McKenzie’s year? What was Andy’s dog’s name? Who goes on to do what, and where are they now?

It’s true that, in order to survive, this farm needs the surrounding community, from Great Falls and beyond. We need CSA subscribers and Farmer’s Market patrons to purchase our vegetables, and especially in the case of the CSA, to be in it for the long haul of the growing season. But we also need the tiny community that surrounds us every year, helping to make the garden, tend the animals, and to see the season through. People have come from coast to coast and from all walks of life come to work and stay at the farm: Young people, not-so-young people, locals, students, Air Force wives, train hoppers, potters, philosophers, musicians, and mermaids.

Sometimes they come for a season, sometimes just a little while, but each person makes an impression. Each volunteer, apprentice or intern makes their mark in the timeline, adding to the community of farmers that make up our (relatively short) history. Though the communal aspect of this arrangement can be awkward or challenging, it adds a lot of diversity and ‘flavor’ to growing food. And we couldn’t have gotten here without them.

See you at the farm stand, Audra

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