As I mentioned last winter, we took this year off from farming. Kind of.
We didn’t have our own farm, that much is true. One big lesson we learned from two years of farming at New Entry in Dracut is that living 40 miles away from your farm is TOO far. In 2013, the cost of driving for farm work was more than $4,000. And the time and energy it took was not small, either.
So one big complication for our farming future is that we live in the city, in Brookline (right next to Boston), and because of Tracy’s job and school for our son, we’re likely to be here for a while. And also because of my work as a playwright, too–right now I’m in a super busy stretch of new play productions, and it’s really helpful to be close to work so I can get to and from rehearsals (by bike, usually). Where we live is especially densely populated (we don’t even have a yard) and expensive, so it’s very, very hard to find even a small amount of farmland that we can lease or buy. And farming without land is really tough (not impossible, I know, but the kind of farming that I like to do requires land).
As my writing career gets busier, it’s also a lot trickier to figure out how to squeeze in the business of running my own farm. One of the other lessons from 2012 and 2013 is that farming isn’t just a tough physical undertaking, it’s also a completely engrossing activity, mentally. While the season is in progress, if you have your own farm, you are fully absorbed with planning and executing plans and responding to emergencies. I LOVED it, but I know that diving that deep requires the time and space to make it happen.
So I miss having my own farm, a lot, but I accept that I can’t necessarily do everything I want, all at once.
On the plus side, this season, I was able to get some farm time on the farm of a friend. Laura Davis, a friend from New Entry, hired me to work on her Long Life Farm in Upton, MA, one day a week. It was a true joy to get to hang out with her and her husband Don and the other crew members and get my hands dirty. They farm a couple acres of organic vegetables, which meshed perfectly with my experience and my interests. And I got paid in both cash and vegetables, while getting to spend time outdoors, practice my farm skills, and keep learning more and more about growing food. Though the commute was long, I was only there one day a week. And, more importantly, the farm work didn’t intrude into the rest of my life and take over every waking thought. I could work hard, come home tired and sore, and get back to work on my newest play script.
Indeed, I found that working that one day a week was a perfect antidote to sitting staring at a computer at my desk all day, or sending out dozens of e-mails. That one day a week working with my hands, on the land, made me feel much more grounded and sane.
I do still hope to have my own small farm someday. But for now, I will make sure that I keep getting actual farm working and grow my skills and knowledge. (And I will try to be better about updating this blog and post photos from the farm work that I do get to do, because it’s all part of the journey.)