It’s been a gorgeous and productive week here on the farm. Casey has worked up all the ground we’ll be planting for the spring and summer (outside of high tunnels) and we planted a first round of onions and some flowers (to attract beneficial insects). Many more plants to come, but we are still planting some in the high tunnels too, because — in spite of all this glorious sun — it is still quite early in the growing season. We were reminded of this when we woke to frost this morning!
But, the warmer, sunny days have us feeling optimistic about the season. When we’re here, working on the farm, it’s easy to stay chipper and feel like everything is normal. Because, for us, the rolling work of spring feels very familiar. But when we go into town for our weekly errands and CSA pick-up and Casey’s meeting, we are reminded again of how profoundly everything has changed. Downtown McMinnville feels very different: mostly empty parking lots, closed restaurants and stores, few people walking around.
I try to limit my news consumption so that I can stay aware but not overwhelmed, but Casey and I do subscribe to the News-Register as well as the print edition of the Oregonian and the weekend New York Times. (This, by the way, is a true luxury that we savor every weekend — flipping through the pages of the newspaper while drinking our coffee.) So, while right now my view of the fields looks as promising and hopeful as any spring, the news reminds me that we are still very much in the midst of a global crisis of a magnitude unknown in my almost four decades of living.
I read a lot of history with the kids, so I have immersed myself in the big crises of past eras: the plague, wars, the Great Depression. I will admit that as an American child who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, I genuinely believed such hardships were behind us. We in the modern western world had “figured it out” — between technology and stable governments, we would continue to walk a [admittedly curvy and bumpy] road toward peace, health, and prosperity for all.
Yes, I was naive! But even though we’re all still in the thick of this period of uncertain outcomes, I also read enough history to know how much progress has been made. We are better off today, thanks to life-saving medical knowledge and communication technologies and mostly cooperative relationships between nations.
Still, it’s hard to believe that by many measures we’re now a month into this crises (I started social distancing on March 12), and we still don’t have enough protective equipment for workers or enough tests to get more data about how coronavirus is moving through our communities. These resources seem like such basic necessities, and yet here we are without. This is very hard to grasp. Individual crafters like myself are sewing masks — which is awesome — but ours are not equivalent to the ones that are needed. They are better than nothing; they are an amazing example of the love and dedication people have for their communities; but they are not what we desperately need! It all still feels so big, and big problems like this require big leadership and big answers.
I have been reminded a lot of our early days on our first rented land back in 2006. Very early on, we bought and built a style of greenhouse that it turns out was not well suited to our site. It was too tall for us to manage; too rickety to withstand the winds; just too much all around. They were constantly threatening to fall down and weren’t serving our purpose at all, and we’d spent a lot of money on them and didn’t know what to do. It was a big mistake.
I remember feeling constantly on edge and very overwhelmed. Casey and I were barely adults — I had just turned 25! — and this was the first time we’d farmed on our own. We were faced with a crisis that felt bigger than anything we’d faced without the help of a guiding mentor. We’d just left the warm environment of our graduate programs and the farm where we trained, and here we were facing something we didn’t feel equipped to handle. I remember thinking as a default: Who can help us now? Where is the super hero who can swoop in and fix this?
There was no super hero, of course. This was on us to fix, and it required setting aside our fears and our ego to admit that we hadn’t done the right thing, but now we needed to do the right thing. All that mattered was us stepping up and fixing it.
Which we did. With help, of course, because — as is so glaringly obvious amidst a pandemic — none of us are truly individuals in our efforts at good living. But we needed to develop our new team here in Yamhill County, and we needed to grow our own strength to problem solve, re-evaluate, and make a new plan. The bulk of the work was on us, because we had to accept the pain and burden of the responsibility. So, in the case of our greenhouse, we returned what we could and made a new plan with what we couldn’t, and within a few days of admitting our failure, we had a much smaller operational greenhouse full of starts. (If you’re curious to revisit that saga, you can find it in our archives here and here.)
I guess this story keeps coming back to me, because as I read the news, I find myself again asking “where is the super hero who can save all of us?” Again, the answer is: there isn’t one. The leaders of our world, at every level, now need to step up, acknowledge where mistakes have been made, find their team members, re-evaluate, and make a new plan. It is hard work to do, but there is no other way out of this. It is going to be painful and already is. I have seen signs of that kind of humble leadership playing out in pockets, and it is beautiful. It really is. But, here we are: still without tests and protective equipment.
This is not ok. The greenhouse is still too tall for us to handle here on the ground.
We can sew all day, and we will. Many of us will. I’ve sewn masks and sown seeds, doing what I can here on the ground. But I am also offering my prayers for all of those in leadership positions around the world, praying for their humility right now. Praying that they see the old plans didn’t work and that’s it’s time to admit where we need to chart a new course. There are no super heroes to save us. But, we do live in a unprecedented time of peace, technology and prosperity, and our leaders can step up and get creative about how to make best use these blessings of our era: they can be humble and build their teams and make plans and help us here on the ground. I am praying.
And staying home on the farm, where I can help keep our community safe and healthy and educate our children and grow food. These are hard, confusing times, my friends. So many are feeling stretched extremely thin by living through so much uncertainty and change at once. Again, let us remember to find comfort in the rhythms of this season and the food on our plates. We have today.
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Meet this week’s vegetables:
Remember to place your order by the end of Tuesday! If you have any challenges with your order, please call (503-474-7661) or email me (farm at oakhillorganics dot com).