Sunday, August 25, 2019

Reflections on Food and Farming

Back in April at the beginning of the season. Photo:Indira

It’s important to be proud of what you do.
I think it’s not what you do in life but how you do it. Even when days are hard, I do my best work because it feels good and because at least I can be proud of something.

Like this week, I was in charge of harvesting and preparing the beefsteak tomatoes. I prepared them beautifully in their boxes and the head farmer loved them and took a picture. I applied my colleague Indira’s tip of arranging veggies together by size and just took care to be gentle with each tomato. My other colleagues commented on the beautiful presentation as well and though no one said anything in particular to me, I was proud of me in my head.

When days are hard, I try to refocus and remember why I love this job, to work with nature, build a relationship with the land where I live, know her, and feed people good wholesome organic food. Then I think to myself, what could be more important?

"Beefsteak" tomatoes harvested by me. 

Happy with my tomato harvest this week. 

The Jumpy loaded with veggies for delivery. 

This season on the farm has been all about saving. Saving the potatoes, saving the rest of the small and unwanted poireaux (leeks) before making way for new crops, saving the not so pretty tomatoes for making sauce.

As I live this lifestyle in the countryside close to nature, I feel like I’m becoming closer to the cycles of life. And, in the cycles of life, there is no waste. Everything has a purpose and somehow continues on this web of life. While we still buy supplemental food at the market that come in plastic containers or glass/aluminum, Jorris and I accumulate minimal waste I would say. And, most of that stuff is recyclable which is good.

For food scraps like onion and garlic peels or any other vegetables, we put in our compost. Yes, we have our own compost now in our garden! Before, in our old studio we would just accumulate so much food scraps and it would just be unpleasant waiting for the end of the week to take it to the community garden’s compost.

There can be much food waste in farming. I work on a small family farm though, so we try to minimize this. At the farm, with the potatoes we harvest for example, some of them get cut into during the process with the tool we use. This is a normal part of harvesting because you just can’t see where the potatoes are as you dig them up, so naturally, some get cut into. The damaged ones cannot be sold and must be eaten quickly before they rot. So, Indira was sweet enough to toss the damaged ones aside so I could collect them to take home for Jorris and I. They are so tasty! We’ve made plenty of potato salads and potatoes pies, and while they are not a pretty sight, they are organic, non-gmo and really tasty. To me, these good qualities are what matters most, not the looks.

From Farm: Back in April when we planted the potatoes at Jean-Claud's field. 

To table: Jorris makes the best fried potatoes. 

These salvaged potatoes were delish w/homemade mayo.

With salads that are too small or carrots with broken tips when harvested, I have taken home too and they have made delicious meals. The other day, there were 2 bouquets of basil that Renaud was going to toss aside, and I commented that a pesto can be made with them. He said that I could do it, so he gave me the bouquets. They were slightly bruised and a few days old but no matter. They made the best tasting pesto I had ever made, and ended up in Jorris' and my dinner that night, lunch the next day and dinner again the next day. They were strong plants to begin with, so their flavor profile was intact despite their slightly darkened appearance.

I suppose I have a farmer’s eye now and see the beauty and potential in vegetables and fruits that perhaps not many people see right away. We, as humans, are so quick to judge, vegetable, people and plants alike. We don't take enough time to just take a look and make a mindful observation, to get to know something or someone before making assumptions. Sometimes it takes a little creativity and transformation, but that is what I love so much about farming. Farming and growing food is all about transformation: from seed, to plant, to flower, to fruit, to earth, again and again. The land we farm on is constantly shifting as well. Where the salads are today, there will be something else in a few weeks or months. And the creativity comes into play each time we problem solve and each time we seek to transform these vegetables into wholesome dishes that feed our friends and families. 

I don’t believe in wasting food. I don’t believe in wasting anything, but that is a topic for another post. Gardening and farming has instilled deeper into me this sense of saving food and not wasting. I think it’s because I am a part of that process of growing the food, so I know all the hard labor and sacrifices and resources that goes into growing that food. That is why I decided to make mashed potatoes last Sunday night at 11pm because the cooked potatoes in the fridge were approaching their expiration date, said my nose as I took a sniff. These potatoes which I laboured so hard over, bending over row after row to pick them from the earth and getting my hands pricked from spiky weeds as the sun mercilessly beat down upon me, these potatoes would not be wasted. Jorris thought I was crazy, but I wasn’t giving up on them. I couldn’t.

Baby salads are always so promising and beautiful. 

Black Beauty Eggplant (Aubergine).

Gorgeous poireaux (leeks); little ones worth saving too.

I think it’s also part of my heritage. My Grandparents grew up in an era of war and hardship, during times of food scarcity and suffering. They told us never to waste food. I remember my Grandpa Ma chasing me around and feeding me dinner as I played, he followed close behind with bowl of rice in hand. He fed me every grain and when there was soup, he would pour the last drop of soup on the spoon for me. I never forgot that and still today even at restaurants I pour the last drop of soup on the spoon.

Jorris and I are not perfect though and so sometimes food isn’t eaten fast enough and they rot so we just compost them, like the aubergines (eggplant) last week, which I had just never gotten to in time. It happens. But, at least it will decompose and return back into the earth and back into our garden, hopefully, enriching the soil so we may grow some aubergines of our own next season. In gardening, there is always hope, so, let's hope.

*photos by me; unless otherwise noted. 

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