Horses, Hoes, and Hankerings

In the spring, we farmers are full of hankerings. Woken up by sunshine and warm air, we are longing for a hundred things, a thousand things, a million things. Here are a few:

Greenhouse Hankerings: Everything starts in the greenhouse on our vegetable farm. We sow the seeds, and we long for good germination. We water the seeds, and we hope that our watering system holds out another year, hoses and couplings and hand-dug well alike. We compost the greenhouse beds, hankering after fertility and productivity and general vegetable abundance this season. And we hope warm temperatures really do come and stay, so we don't have to keep paying greenhouse propane bills into April, or May, or June . . .

Garden Hankerings: Some of our veggies–tomatoes, eggplant, basil, green and sweet red and hot peppers–spend their lives in the sheltered greenhouse, but most of our crops are either transplanted or direct-sown into the big world of the garden. This is when the hankerings of a farmer are strongly directed skyward: more rain, less rain; more sunshine, less sunshine; more gentle breezes, less big winds; much much much less hail. We also have some strong bug longings. We long for the beneficial insects, and we hope that the vegetable munchers stay away. In the garden we hanker for sharp hoes and tiny weeds, too.

Biodynamic Hankerings: We farm using biodynamic methods. Biodynamic agriculture is both a practical and a philosophical approach to farming, with a mission to revitalize the soil and to renew an understanding of the spiritual task of farming. Biodynamic farmers see the farm itself as a living organism, one that starts with healthy soil. Healthy soil helps provide healthy plants and healthy food, which in turn can nourish both the physical and spiritual lives of those who eat it. We like to encourage a good spirit in our food and on our farm, though sometimes that only means a frustrated farmer might curse under her breath rather than at a roar. But mostly it means a lasting belief in good, meaningful work in the world.

CSA Hankerings: We must admit that we also hanker for a solid CSA membership in the spring. As farmers, we never know quite what our income is going to be every year. It's always nice to be able to pay the bills, and the bills tend to come very early in the spring, whereas the CSA members come late in the spring, once the warm weather wakes up the garden-fresh-veggies urge. (Plus we hanker highly after members who love local food and farms and farmers, and our CSA members hanker too: Oh! Those sugar snap peas! Oh! That first ripe heirloom tomato! Oh! That first whiff of fresh basil! Sometimes our nice members hanker for hoes too, and come help us weed!)

Horse Hankerings: In all seasons, summer, fall, winter, and spring,our four fine draft horses help us accomplish many tasks around the farm, from bringing in firewood to making hay, from plowing and discing to spreading compost and cultivating, not to mention their generous deposits to soil fertility via the compost pile. But especially now, in the spring, our horses hanker for just one thing: green grass! The first day out on pasture, generally towards the end of April, or the beginning of May, is a day of great horse celebration! And then the second day is! And the third! And the fourth!

This hankering for green grass makes perfect sense to a vegetable farmer. What's better to celebrate than fresh, local, sustainably grown food?

Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, April 13-19, 2016