Helping Out

Posted on July 18, 2011. Filed under: favorite, hodgepodge, travel | Tags: , , , , , |

A farm is alive. The land and the animals still need attention even if the people that are supposed to attend to it are missing. An entire growing season, a livelihood, can be ruined because of unexpected circumstances. But things can be saved when a community comes together to lend a hand.

The farm is about two hours from Pittsburgh. It’s on a beautiful piece of land in a beautiful piece of the country. There are chickens and goats and dogs roaming land speckled with bundles of hay and rows of corn. It’s the very picture that the massive monoculture agrofarms want to you to think about when you think of farmland, except in this case it’s actually the real deal.

But the farm was in danger of being overrun with weeds. One of the people who owns the farm is ill. Those that were left hadn’t the time or manpower to take care of everything. So a bunch of us took off from Pittsburgh, and drove through the rolling countryside, gloves and weeding tools in hand, ready to help. We spent several hours in the hot July sun pulling unwanted plants from the ground. I was in the cornfield, on hands and knees, clearing land so the late-planted rows of corn had a chance to grow.

I’ll be honest with you: I’ve paid a lot of lip-service to the theory that you have to physically work the land in order to really understand why it’s important to pay higher prices to farmers that choose to grow their crops sustainably. It’s not that I didn’t actually think that true; I respect farmers, I believe they are entitled to be paid a fair price for their work…but, I never physically understood the toil of farm work until last weekend. A farm field is a hot hot place in the middle of July. Weeding is taxing on the body. So is harvesting crops in the heat of a summer day. Anyone who chooses to do this for a living deserves our respect.

But this isn’t a story about me getting out of the kitchen/library and onto a cornfield. This is a story about people coming together to help other people in need. Phrases like “dust yourself off and get back on the horse,” or “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” are often given as advice when someone is down. And it’s true, you do need to get up and get back in the game. But sometimes you have to put the word out, ask for help, and hopefully some friends & strangers will pitch in. It’s a wonderful thing. At the end of the day, the farm’s fields were a bit better off than they were before we arrived. There is still work to be done (the work never ends during growing season), and if they asked, I’m sure we’d all be happy to make the drive again.

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