On Being an Organic Farmer and the Futility of Resistance

Posted by on 05.02.08 | 1 Comment
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Ohm or Om

I have tried to resist the killing frost,

to create enough heat in my defiance

to save a whole orchard of pear and peach.

As if worry could raise a May night one degree.

I invent new battle hymns in my blood.

With my friction, I try to protect the trees.

But fervor has no effect on freeze,

does not defend what browns.

The night has its way with me.

Surrender becomes my name.

Before we understand acceptance,

we must refuse to believe what is,

must wrestle with every bit of our lattice

the tide of blind inheritance

until all our nos are replaced by oms

and hum is the only law that sticks,

till we bow to the current ecstasy,

widen the scope, increase the flow,

become the rare conductor

who knows how to let go.

The prediciton for the weather tonight: 26 degrees. Anything under 28 is enough to kill the fragile blooms and tiny fruits that already hang on the trees. There are wind machines, propane burners, irrigation techniques. But all of those are useless when the temperature drops precipitously.

No matter how helpless she is, how is an orchardist to sleep?

For the last year, I have noticed a similar theme in most every arena of my life. Doesn’t matter what we call it. Surrender. Letting go. Acceptance. The idea is the same. I am becoming increasingly fluent in the notion that we are not in control. Nowhere is this more obvious than in our relatively new careers as organic fruit growers.

Just over a year ago, my husband and I bought a 70-acre orchard of peaches, pears, apples, cherries, nectarines and apricots. Located on the banks of the Gunnison River on Colorado’s western slope, it is both a paradise and a prison. Though it is hard to imagine a calling more compelling than growing good, sweet, nourishing food for people, it is not a light commitment. It’s like having a baby. People tell you, “You just don’t know until you do it how much work it is.”

And they are right.

I understood work. Hard work. Long days. Sacrifice. What I did not know was so prominent in the job description: Surrender. These nights of frost in April and May have been difficult for me. As my husband likes to point out, “You like to worry.”

It is not that I like to worry. It is that I am still learning about how to temper my resistance to what is and what will be. Mothering has been a wonderful primer. The orchard is like getting a graduate degree.

If we do make it through tonight’s frost with enough of a crop to care for, then there will be plenty more to worry about: coddling moth in the apples, green peach aphids in the stone fruit, hail in late summer, the list goes on.

And so surrender becomes my teacher. And resistance is another word for fear–one that must be faced. Because even if we grow beautiful fruit this summer, there is always next year, and next year, and next year. We do what we can. And then the prayers begin.

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