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Why Do We Farm Like We Do?

We have moved locations from a very busy, not so farmish area, into a serene, laid-back land where many farmers and farms reside. Due to us being on a busier street, many people have stopped in to chat and see what we are up to. As I look at our little piece of land and then across the street to a much larger piece where a tractor comes once in a while to plant and tend, I feel that sense of smallness. It feels a bit like that feeling you get from looking up into the night sky when you can see all the stars and know that you are itty-bitty.

A tractor can come and cultivate our piece of land in approximately ten minutes. It takes us a couple months to get that same piece of land under production. And so it was making me think about why we do what we do. And I don't mean about the heart behind it. We for sure want to grow fresh, chemical free produce to both give to those in need and for our community, but why do we go about it with hand tools and compost instead of a tractor and tractor implements? Honestly, a small tractor would be great even just to bring the compost to the permanent bed I want it in! But I know that large scale farming will never be for me. I don't have anything against it. I know right now it would be disastrous to take away large scale farming.

But here are the thoughts of why we farm the way we farm. As I have been building beds with my workers, people randomly stop by to talk to me about how I grow what I grow. How do I use the netting? How do I set up irrigation? What do I do if I have cucumber beetles? (I cry. That is what I do. I weep for the cucumbers and then give it some diatomaceous earth.)

People come and volunteer and learn how to sow peas and transplant tomatoes and hill potatoes. They learn and they take what they learn home with them. We are not exactly a teaching farm, but how can you not learn from doing? And I realize this is a large part of why we farm as we do. The average person is not going to be able to go out, buy a large piece of land and a tractor. Not many can afford that. But most of us can afford a pot, a package of seeds and some soil. Most of us can take what is learned at Sparrow Gardens and do it at home in an even smaller space. That knowledge is powerful. So in part we farm this way because anyone can do it. There is a growing that happens in our volunteers from our youngest to our oldest that is very different from the farmland across the street and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

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