May 31, 2017
So, what does a farmer do all day you may wonder?
Even if you don’t wonder it may be interesting to stop for a moment and think about it. What do you think a farmer does? How do they spend their time? Well it depends on what, where and how they are farming. I can tell you it’s not all just Old MacDonald and chewing straw. For me, it’s also not an air-conditioned tractor with automated weed-control, seeding and harvesting. I can speak for a small urban organic vegetable farmer on the outskirts of Sydney. So here goes.
A typical day starts early with an email and social media check at home with a cup of coffee. Typical of many occupations. But that’s probably where the similarities stop. Once morning family routines are completed I set off for the farm. If it’s not a harvest day there may be bed-forming work with the tractor to do; weeding with the flame torch; planting transplants or direct seeding using a push-seeder. I may be moving weed suppressing tarps to the next bit of ground; liquid fertilising kale and chard; removing damaged leaves or fruits from plants; controlling caterpillars by spraying Dipel or adding nets to beds. There could be grass to mow; chickens to feed; eggs to collect and wash; irrigation lines to design and connect; carrots to weed on hands and knees; broccoli to stirrup-hoe; trays of onions to seed or pea trellises to install. I could be laying weedmat and burning holes for seedlings to be popped into; putting up a greenhouse; removing old crops to the compost pile to make way for another planting; seeding green manures; spreading wheelbarrows full of mushroom compost onto new beds or organising the shed.
If it’s harvest day I will be at the farm early and late to pick in the cool of the morning or the evening - when the spinach leaves feel cold pressed against a warm cheek. This is when you know they are at their best. Once harvested, anything leafy is dunked in a water bath and then chilled while still wet to keep it fresh and crisp. Crops are divided up into boxes so everyone gets their fair share and then either picked up at the farm or delivered in my van. This is the fun part where I get to chat to the customers and enjoy their ooohs and ahhhs. It’s also a great way to find out what they are liking and disliking about the boxes so I can keep improving.
Once harvest is over for the week, it’s onto the phone calls to the pump SIM card repair company; a trip to the hardware or irrigation store; a conversation with the landlord about the farm fence; sorting out a quote for the coolroom or speaking to the graphic designer about signage for the farm. There might be a van to register; photos to snap for Facebook or Instagram or seed to order. It could be time to process payroll; complete a Business Activity Statement; design a customer feedback survey; write a newsletter; put out marketing flyers in the local shops; write up an employment contract; update the products on the website or prepare for the annual tax return.
It’s a busy schedule. It’s probably not what the average person thinks about when they open a bag of lettuce or bite into a carrot. But that’s what happens to get food into your hands. So, thank a farmer, think of the whole story, forget the stereotypes, know where your food comes from and enjoy being a part of something amazing.
Yours in veg,