“What should we do with you?”
When I got rear-ended a couple months ago, my back injury prevented me from doing a lot of my normal daily activities, let alone the back-breaking labor that farming is known for. In addition to just having to adapt to living with pain, I was also bummed to not get the full farm experience every day, being pretty limited in terms of the types of fieldwork that I could do. Some days I was alone by the sinks washing piles and piles of vegetables, and other days I was traipsing the farm updating our accounting system trying to figure out what crops were in which fields.
It was hard to feel like I was really farming. Isn’t that what I had come to do anyways? But on those days when I would start to feel bad about what I was contributing to the farm, I began thinking about the ways we think about labor and interdependence.
A lot of the ways we think about labor has to do with masculinity. We can easily understand how shoveling horse manure onto a compost pile is work. Other types of labor like cleaning, taking care of children, or providing emotional support to a friend – the types of work that are often taken on by women – are often erased as being labor in the same way. But we also know that those jobs, which often are undervalued, are also completely necessary to the functioning of the whole operation. So when I started to feel discouraged I would challenge myself to think that the hours I spent washing collard greens was as integral to the operation of the farm as planting seeds or clearing fields (even if it is less glamorous).
Beyond human labor, being on the farm has challenged me to value and understand each organism’s unique contribution to a broader system. On Friday, we found a whole gopher tunnel labyrinth, and began scheming on how to quickly catch and kill it. I paused a bit though and see past the gopher as a ‘pest’ and to push myself to see what role the gopher plays in our complex ecosystems.
‘Do gophers help aerate the soil?’ I asked Tyler.
‘Yeah, gophers are great at breaking up compact soil, because they’ll come through and dig it up. They’re like nature’s tillers.’
During a time when there is a lot of hate towards groups that are seen as ‘other’, it’s important to look deeper and uplift the value that each of us brings to the larger whole. From immigrants and people with disabilities, to gophers and aphids, everyone is connected through our shared home of this planet.