By: Sharon Carter, RDN,LD
Organic farming…it sounds so romantic. Butterflies fluttering overhead, ducks marching around in a parade, cows mooing, the summer breeze blowing the tall grass, beautiful greenery in the garden, and the birds flitting around excitedly! Everything is in motion outside; full of life. My photos communicate that romance of the farm to the viewer; take a look on Instagram. I’m spending time volunteering at an organic farm this summer because I decided to start making my dream a reality. I have a dream to be an organic farmer, in Hawaii. I thought, “I’ll probably learn something new each time I go.” Well, that’s true. By working on my dream, I’m learning.
I learned several things in the past month. Take, for instance, the caterpillar that crawls inside the cabbage, leaving its feces throughout the leafy spiral. Are there more caterpillar invaders out there trying to take our precious cabbage from us? And, where there is one, there are likely more lurking around. Did you know the rows of the garden should run east to west? That way there will be no shading of crops by nearby, taller crops. If you are from California, you may know what a hula hoe is, but being from Michigan, I didn’t have a clue. It is called a saddle hoe in Michigan. It looks like the stirrup you put your foot in when riding a horse, and it has a handle. By rubbing it back and forth on the weeds you knock them down. You might not get them out at the roots, but you will set the weeds back so your plants will not be choked out and can prosper in the sunlight.
More than the skills of organic gardening, I have gained a deeper appreciation of the soil, the sun and especially the food I eat. It starts with the soil. The plants bioconcentrate the nutrients of the soil, and the animals bioconcentrate the nutrients of the plants they eat. Then we human omnivores get to eat nutrient rich food from plants and animals. By the sweat of the brow and muscles of the back, the ground yields its bounty. Only four weeks into gardening, we are harvesting various lettuces, spinach and cabbages. I will not let that food go to waste – salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner today! There are some downsides, like the bad smell of manure if the wind is not blowing, the aching back and the battle against the weeds and heat. Yet, working on the farm brings deep satisfaction to my soul. The bond between the earth, the animals and humans is deeply connected to each other. Taking care of the soil and the animals, we are taking care of ourselves and yielding a harvest of healthful food to enjoy.