Letter to a young farmer, in the midst of a pandemic.

Organic farm field, evening sky at Good Heart Farmstead

Dear Farmer,

You are in the height of spring: early mornings, long days, late dinners and one more round of field work in the fading twilight as you spread compost on the strawberries.

Just a few days ago you were worried about those strawberries, having seen the first flowers opening just before a late season flurry of snow.  You covered them with winter-thick row cover and woke early to turn on the sprinklers so their frost-kissed petals and pistils would come out of the cold gently, alive, able to produce.  A few days later you noticed a dozen or so flowers with black centers.  You bent down and plucked them off.  These would not produce berries after all.

But the rest of the plants — they’re deep green and growing and look!  New flowers opening up.  

Some days you’re not worried. 

You welcome new customers who are grateful for local food in the midst of a pandemic, and you are grateful to be growing.  Grateful to be in a position to help.

Some days you are worried. 

You look at your son and wonder, how long can we go without his grandparents or his friends or his teachers?  You look at yourself and wonder, how many more days will I feel this tear between parenting and farming?  Between getting the work done and giving my child what he needs?  

But then you remember that question has always been there.  

Some days you’re numb. 

You go through the motions of emails in the morning, opening the greenhouse as the sun floods over the hillside, checking off the to-do list while adding more than can possibly be done in one day.  

You do not think.  This is why you have a list.  So you don’t have to think on the numb days.

Other days you aren’t numb at all. 

You wake up to birdsong and go to sleep to the croaking of frogs in the pond.  You breathe in the green of unfurling leaves and damp soil and can’t believe you get to do this.  You plant and tend and harvest.  These are the good feeling days.

Then there are the days when heaviness presses on your chest, and you wonder, why now?  Just yesterday you felt hope and joy.  How is it that tears well up today, that patience is gone, that everything you do seems to be wrong?

All you know is this: you want to hug your mom.  You want to walk with your dad. 

You want to sit by a campfire and sing late into the night with your brother as he plays guitar.  You want to drive to a friend’s house for a potluck, hands and food and drink intermingling, breath circling with laughter.  You want to feel safe in this closeness.  

Somehow the first few weeks of the pandemic felt easier — you were in reaction and response mode; stepping up to the call of duty; learning new best practices, adjusting your systems and taking care of customers.  

Now, 3 ½ months in, it’s beginning to feel normal. 

And this is what grates at you most — that some days feel normal, despite the masks and hand sanitizer and cancelled summer camps.

In a moment of perspective, you know that someday you’ll look back on this time and realize how a year or two, or possibly three, isn’t such a long time.  You’ll look back and remember how the unimportant things fell away.  How you created new types of closeness as you learned to speak directly from the heart.  

How you spoke and listened and felt held in your friendships over zoom calls and marco polo chats.  How a new tenderness arose in your family as you navigated physical distance by calling more, facetiming more, making time for conversations.

And all the while the land holds you.  

The late spring finally wakes up, reminding you of how fast the rebirth can be.  How snow can fall one week, and the next leaves burst open as red-winged blackbirds call on the fence line and green cascades over the once dull pasture.

All the times of questioning your path, of wondering if you shouldn’t have taken a different career, fall away under the clear sky and open space.  You are meant to be here, growing roots deep into the soil, twining with the land, creating a life that supports and is supported by nature.  

You are in the height of spring and feel the pull to plant, to grow, to give what you can so others may eat and grow and give, too. 

This is your work and your joy. 

So you wake up again, not knowing if the day will be good or bad, only that you will do what you can.  When it’s over, you’ll rest in the song of crickets and wood frogs, cradled between land and sky, and breathe in the beauty that persists.

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