I see them in all sorts and places, in organized journals, in sketchbooks, in pocket-sized notepads, on a computer or phone, and sometimes in a farmer’s perfect memory that can compete with any academic. The information, the stories, the notes, the things to remember, the things they would like to forget, the ideas for next year, and the failings of this year.
All this knowledge is kept somewhere different from one farmer to the next. Be it a page in a journal, or a “page” made of neural connections, farmers have stories to tell and a wealth of knowledge. It may be interesting to you, or make you sad and upset, but they are stories and anecdotes you likely could not expect.
The more time passes, the more society separates itself from the farming experience. Farming is now big tractors cultivating commodity crops via robots, or hundreds of immigrant workers harvesting lettuce– all of whose reaping results in plastic packages of meat and produce we expect at all moments of our still-present seasons.
If someone feels so inclined, they might know a local farm, follow them on Instagram, or occasionally visit their farmers market to buy a few novelties and pick up the rest at the grocery store. People may even read a book or article and amount that to understanding what it is to be a farmer, and what our food system truly is.
People are also reading…
We have become a swarm of locusts, demanding all foods at all times and for pennies. Sending the consequences to the wind, along with our topsoil. It is easy to consume everything we touch if we do not have a connection to land, water, and the heartbreaking love that goes into land stewardship and the making of food. Very few of us, even those with the best intentions, can say they know a farmer, let alone the beautiful moment in a farmer’s life that makes them persevere.
I am a relatively young farmer, with only six years’ experience running my own farm. Luckily, I am surrounded by a community of farmers, both in my local Capay Valley home and in the Napa Farmers Market, whose stories I cherish and whose lessons I learn.
And I come with my patrimony, which extends back generations to a peasant family tilling the clay soil of southern France with their oxen, imprinted tightly in the chromatin binding my DNA. There are many who could do it better, but instead, you have my friends, neighbors, chromatin, and me to share with you the story of farming.
At the end of every month, the Napa Farmers Market will present a monthly column called Pages from a Farmer, turning our haphazard “pages” of experiences into a page you can read. This column will be curated by me and told from the eyes of any and all farmers who will share their stories and perspective.
You may read an interview from a local farmer in Napa, a farmer who grows on the coast and drives to your farmers market, or maybe someone with an entirely new perspective and lesson we must hear.
It will not be a story you can forget, and it will not always make you feel good about yourself, but it will make you closer to your food system, and hopefully inspire you to be a part of its healthy and sustainable future.
Carine Hines, PhD, is a mother, Sun Tracker farm(her), biologist, and member of the Napa Farmers Market board of directors.
Find the Napa Farmers Market at 1100 West St. (at Pearl Street) in downtown Napa, site of the former Cinedome Theater. Hours are Tuesdays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon. For details visit napafarmersmarket.org.