Thoughts From the Tomato Patch

Hello,

In winding down from an awesome summer working on Kaima Farm, I found myself having a tough time gathering all of my thoughts into one neat little blog post. I decided instead to break this next post up into a series of different pieces in order to paint a picture of my experience. Here are some of my musings:

An Anecdote:

Sometimes, a person who orders a CSA box from Kaima has a particular aversion to tomatoes. For others, it’s squash. A more than marginal number of people are not interested in eggplant (for reasons I cannot decipher).

We are in the final stretch of packing boxes on one of my last days at Kaima, and a staff member and friend named Rina tells me that we have 12 boxes left–and she instructs me to keep track! Thus, I begin distributing veggies from my end of the assembly line, and I start taking count.

I gather: 1 big white box, 4 ears of corn, 2 eggplants–one big, and one small, 2 squashes, potatoes, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers. Then I pass the box along for the next person to pack more produce into.

I have begun filling up the second box when Rina informs me that this one will actually be a “special” box–it will have sweet potato instead of squash as per a customer’s request. She sticks a label on the box marking its distinction, and places in the batatot (sweet potatoes).

We move on. I continue my job packaging until Rina comes along again with three more sweet potatoes. Someone doesn’t want eggplant. She places them in, I continue.

And Rina returns.

Then she returns again.

I look up at the girl packing the next series of greens, and realize I have no idea how many boxes we have filled. Did we make it past three? Or have we done four? I try to count but am thrown off even further when I spot a small lizard in one of the empty boxes. The assembly line becomes backed up. We soon realize we don’t have enough cucumbers and have to fill–how many? Five more bags? And where is that last crate of lettuce?

Thus is packaging day.

Out of the chaos emerges 75 large boxes and 145 small(er) boxes stuffed to the brim with fresh and tasty produce, ready to be delivered to various pick up points all around the area.

— — — — —

Five things I Learned About Farming:

1. Farming is simple.

A typical day at Kaima consists of spending hours in the blazing sun doing some repetitive task, such as:

  • Harvesting squash
  • Using a rake to make piles of rocks in order to clear a new field
  • Organizing old hoses
  • Pruning leaves
  • Putting compost in holes

2. Simple is not a bad thing.

Cucumbers are not very judgemental. There is a certain ease gained from doing repetitive tasks, and plants are refreshing.

3. Farm work is also really tough.

Do not be mislead by points 1 or 2. Farming requires some demanding physical labor. It also involves planning and coordinating and thinking. It entails getting dirty. It also sometimes means getting thorns in your pants.

4. Growing plants is a process.

The day-to-day work on a farm can consist of many things that don’t seem directly tied to planting or harvesting fruits and vegetables, but are equally important (and sometimes the most effortful). See point 1 for some examples.

5. Metaphors are irrelevant.

Self-growth and growth of plants are deeply intertwined.

— — — — —

On Being Speechless

Though my Hebrew had improved immensely by the end of my time at Kaima and I understood most things that people said, I was only just beginning to get comfortable speaking by the time I went home.  However, after saying my goodbyes on my final day at the farm, I had a realization: the connections I formed this summer were not dependent on my capacity to communicate through language.

One thought I had as to why this might be is that perhaps this dynamic more accurately reflects how most (same language) relationships ought to be anyways. I spend a lot of time talking to friends about things that are on my mind, but very rarely do I fully manage to express–to make the motive for my words understood. I have a fairly wide vocabulary, but during the most important moments it isn’t the primary device through which I am heard.

Since my communication this summer often took the form of broken sentences, it was not usually word choice, but the decision to participate in a particular conversation at all that likely gave away the most about me. Nonverbal communication played a huge role as well; facial expression, eye contact, or a hug hello could mean a lot. Finally, there is simply the power of sharing a presence. Friendships grow in hours spent working alongside someone while you each wander in thought, humming a tune, without needless sound.

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Eating popsicles in Moshav Beit Zayit after a day of work

 

All the best,

Camille L. Brenner

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