Morgan Evans-Weiler started working with us part time in the summer in 2012. He’s a musician and artist, but loves vegetables as much as we do (maybe more?), and likes working outside in the heat. Plus there are less violin lessons to teach in the summer. So, for a few days a week, for a few months a year Morgan has come to help us grow food. He won’t admit it, but he could run his own farm at this point, and it has been such a pleasure to work with him and enjoy his company for all these years.
(A good sound track for this blog would start with ‘These are the days’ by 10,000 Maniacs.)
Unfortunately for us, Cornell University admitted him into their MFA program and he leaves this week to get settled and start orientation in Ithaca. As his friends we are happy for him, excited for this new adventure – we know he will make the most of it. But any time a good friend leaves there is always sadness. It’s hard to put into words how important Morgan is to us. Words like smart, kind, generous and creative don’t work to describe him because they are generic, and there is nothing generic about him.
We are so lucky for his help on the farm. He works hard, has a great attitude and is usually the person to remember to bring the ‘jam-box’ to the field. He takes feedback well, tolerates our BS, and knows enough now that his feedback to us is helpful and constructive and helps the farm succeed.
I don’t like to describe any part of our relationship as employer/employee. I know that’s what it is when he works for us and we pay him, but there is a social implication of an imbalance of power that I really don’t like. I need people to work on the farm to meet the goals I set for the business. I need to manage how the work is done and it’s on me to teach them, treat them with respect, make sure there are enough red knives to around and compensate them well in order to achieve what I hope is a common goal of producing great product with minimal impact. My employees really have the upper hand when it comes to power, because I need them.
A skilled farm laborer is hard to come by. Especially for a diversified vegetable farm, where the variety of tasks is so great it takes years to even begin to master them all. This year we raised our hourly to $15/ hour for all adults who have worked with us for at least a year (we do still pay minimum wage for part time high school and college students, but usually there is a lot of training happening, and it takes a while to help them develop their skills . . . every year someone returns they get a $1/hour raise). It still feels like not enough when I have an amazing crew that I can turn loose with limited instruction and get amazing results, but it is a step. We don’t pay overtime, or sick days (but anyone can call out sick any time without fear of losing their job) or offer benefits, but the work is seasonal. A part of why we push towards year round farming is because we want to create year round employment. And it is a great balance for someone like Morgan, who has other pursuits that can be flexible with the farming season. If we can create jobs that provide enough income and security to allow our employees to pursue other interests and passions then I think we are doing something right. Because otherwise we need to hope people are desperate enough, or idealistic and privileged enough to do hard work for low wages, and that’s not the world I want to live in.
We can’t do anything about the fact that the housing market around here is outrageous, but affordable housing would be another important offering we’d like to have for employees if we had land security.
Too many people look down on the work that is done on our farm as menial. Yes, it is hard. Yes sometimes it really sucks. We do whatever we can to prevent avoidable terrible situations, but sometimes its just 90+ degrees and the tomatoes need to be picked, or its pouring rain but CSA pick up is in 5 hours and we’ve got to get 150 shares on the stand. But probably most of the people who look down on this work wouldn’t actually be able to do it.
Try showing up without any training or practice and harvesting a crate of bunched carrots that meets our quality and speed standards (12 bunches in 12 minutes). Then move on to radish, then kale. Now hoe a 450 bed of beets well enough to prevent the need for excessive hand weeding. Now put a 4th string on the field tomato trellis. Now go do the seeding list for this week. Sure, none of it is rocket science or brain surgery, but it requires a lot of training and practice to be a productive employee on our farm. Constant constructive feedback.
And its like this on all farms, everywhere in the world. You don’t have to just eat venison and rutabaga in winter because we can (as a society) ship whatever, from wherever, whenever we want to (regardless of the environmental costs). Yes a lot of product out of season is inferior, but plenty of is it still pretty darn good. And we get to have all of those things because there are people who you will never meet willing to do that work. So, if you like eating and don’t grow all your own food, I suggest supporting social initiatives that advocate for workers rights, and for healthcare for lower wage jobs that aren’t traditionally covered. Because I’m sure you wouldn’t ever expect someone to do all the work to grow your food but deny them access to healthcare, fair treatment or fair pay.
We just took a break and rode the bike path from the Car Quest in Holliston to the park with the lake in Milford (don’t know what it’s called), ate a picnic supper and rode back, just before dark. I feel the need to tell you this since we saw three CSA members on our trip (two of them on a tandem bike!). We are trying to live it up while Morgan is still here, and trying to work off some of the junk food we ate at his going away party last night.
I made a pinata for the party. We talked about it in theory a lot this season and on Tuesday last week I decided I needed to make it a reality. I’m a super type-A, workaholic, and only value myself based on what I produce and what other people think of me. I work deliberately to quell this part of my character and occasionally attempt to exist just for the sake of existence or do things just because they bring me joy. Morgan is a role model for me in that respect. He follows his passion and deliberately makes time for and prioritizes his art and his music. So, I decided I had to make this pinata a reality, to honor the inspiration he gives me to attempt to access my creative side.
It took about 5 hours over the course of 5 days (all after Harvey went to bed) and was SO worth it. And we haven’t beaten it with a stick yet, so we still get to enjoy it hanging in the kitchen. And maybe we’ll keep it, to remind us of Morgan. OR maybe we’ll beat it with a stick, have a ton of fun and remind ourselves that nothing last forever. Not even your best friend farming with you on and off in the summer. Unless we move to Ithaca and buy a farm out there . . .
And on to the vegetables, because they keep growing, we keep taking care of them, and we keep picking them.
The share this week is very similar to last, lots of the same produce, lots of choice. We are encouraging you to take beets and onions, because we have a LOT!
The share this week:
Fresh Onions (red and white, both delicious)
Probably Corn. A note on the corn – sorry Tuesday for the smaller amount of corn. The coyotes plus some confusion on harvest quantities made me afraid we wouldn’t have enough for Thursday so we gave less than we had hoped for. I promise we will make it up to you in the coming weeks!
This is what I’m talking about! Tomatoes, Peppers, Corn on the Cob, Zucchini – it’s the summer share at it’s finest! Most of the recipes this week are multi-taskers that will use multiple items from your share.
ZUCCHINI, CHORIZO AND SWEET CORN BAKE
This is equally delicious without the chorizo if you’d prefer vegetarian. I made this ahead and re-heated it so we could enjoy some time at the pool in the late afternoon.
If you are one of the lucky ones that finds some zucchini with blossoms still on the end, here’s how to use them! If you don’t have the blossoms, no problem – these are still delicious without them.
Peppers, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes – this recipe will use them all! This recipe calls for Italian Frying Peppers but I would just use regular peppers and add a shake or two of crushed red pepper flakes.
ZUCCHINI PANZANELLA SALAD
I love a good bread salad on a hot summer night! This one has the perfect vinaigrette and will use up tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and some of those onions!
STUFFED BELL PEPPERS WITH TOMATOES AND ZUCCHINI
While I don’t love using the oven in the summer, these stuffed peppers are worth it, and your oven will only be on for 30 minutes. Eat your dinner outside and it will be cool in the kitchen again by the time you come back in.
14 WAYS TO USE A BAG OF ONIONS
Caramelized onions are one of my favorite things. I like to make up a big batch and then throw them in sandwiches, eggs, on top of burgers and hot dogs, you name it! If you need a few more ideas for your onions, check out this article with 14 new ideas for you.
ROASTED BEET, CARROT AND KALE SALAD
I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I love a good make-ahead dinner and this one is perfect for a hot summer night. Roasted beets, carrots and shallots (I would use my fresh onions here) are roasted and tossed in a maple-mustard vinaigrette while they’re still warm and then they soak up all that delicious dressing as they cool off.