Gilead Marilynne Robinson
Though we have previously shared some of the content of this newsletter with our members over the past few weeks, we wanted to additionally share our story with the larger Good Work Farm Community of friends, family, past members, neighbors, future members, and others who keep in touch with our farm through our monthly newsletters.
Earlier this month, Anton and I received news that our suspicions have been confirmed that our crops were suffering from herbicide residues remaining in the soil from the past farmer. We had invited our extension agent to the farm to view our crops and take samples; the pesticide specialist at Penn State Extension confirmed that our crops are being affected by a particular herbicide which can linger in the soil for up to 18 months. While we knew we would be transitioning a conventional field to organic production, and expected to be dealing with issues of compaction, nutrient deficencies, and past pesticide use, we were startled to be facing a pesticide with an 18-month lag time. As growers who are committed to sustainable agriculture, we came to decide that we could not in good conscience offer our members vegetables from this land this season. This has been difficult and heartbreaking news for us—this farm is not only our livelihood, but also our passion; likewise growing healthy, nutrient-dense food for our community and caring for land and soil is the basis of our work, and having that be denied to us by the shortsighted practices of conventional agriculture was a great sadness for us to bear.
We began to act quickly—with the support of fellow farmers and the Lobach Family from whom we lease land, we set about mowing and plowing up a hayfield on a piece of land adjacent the farm, and preparing this land to bear the fruits of love, labor, and vegetable seeds. We offered our members the option of continuing the CSA for a shortened 14-week period, beginning in early August—and most of our members affirmed that they were willing and able to continue on this round-about journey with us, and wait a little longer for the bounty.
While there is no immediate antidote to alleviate herbicide residues this season, we are given an opportunity to commit to this land and to witness its process of healing. We are assisted by the gifts of time and rain and soil microbes, which heal, wash away, and digest all things. We will be extensively cover cropping the land for the remainder of this year, which will allow for nutrients and organic matter to be built in the soil, along with adding soil amendments, offering biodynamic herbal remedies, and farm-based compost, which will further lead to the health of the soil.
Harvesting vegetables and giving them to people to take home feed to their families or share with friends is the Communion of our work. I do not mean this in a sacrilegious way, but rather a deeply spiritual one. Through the process of eating we take in what the earth and elements have offered. It is, or can be for some of us, a deeply intimate experience—to take in this nourishment, this piece of the world, and let it become a part of us.
We are each in process of making our Peace with the world. We are working to build trust with the land—allowing the land to trust us, asking the land to trust us. Humans have severed that relationship as best they can. But now, with humility and vulnerability, we come back to the land, we ask forgiveness; we offer ritual, prayer, and good work to build what has been lost, hollowed, or forgotten.
The signs of blessedness and abundance have surrounded us during this period of difficulty; after my faith was shaken good and hard, I have found a trust built on the generosity and kindness of those who surround us. Each day we have neighbors stopping by to ask how they can support us, friends coming over to bring us plants and help us put plants in the ground. We are being lent equipment, being handed chocolate bars and bunches of rhubarb, adorned with loving words of strength and affirmation, receiving financial support from CSA members, friends, and family near and far. We are humbled by this generosity—I can only accept and receive it when I remember it is not, strictly speaking, for me—I hope I am only a vehicle through which these gifts are given, so that I can better work to serve the Earth—its maker, and its inhabitants, with something close to carefulness and grace.
We Thank you, and we could not do it without you,
Lisa and Anton
“There is a reality in blessing… It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is a power in that.”
Gilead M. Robinson