Recently, I was asked to write an article for the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance's annual directory. They asked me to describe a day farming in the high desert. I tried to encompass the experience of multiple farms and their farmers.
This video describes more about the directory and my piece is below.
By Megan French
This land of dusty hooves and yipping coyotes, of soaring Red Tails and darting marmots. This land where the sun is intense or fleeting, where the clouds are invisible or rumble full of thunder, where the breeze gently soothes or fiercely fights, where the nights are always cold. This land where fields are a palate swept brilliantly with wildflowers or scorched black with wildfire. This land is where we steward and where we call home.
Our fingers are cracked from arid sand, our hair bleached from the desert sun, and our cheeks blush from the endless wind. We know the value of a well-used handkerchief and a well-loved dog. We know the absolute sweetness of the air after the rain soaks the sage leaves and the sun warms the Ponderosa bark, like the delicate scent of an incense burning in the adjacent room. We know the harm of a single seed of cheatgrass or an unwatched step near warming rocks. And above all, we know so deeply the importance of observation. Because to be observant, in this land, is to be resilient.
Everyday we walk our fields, both looking for life, and for death. We notice the sand lilies have bloomed, and deem it spring; or the rabbitbrush bloomed and deem it autumn. We check our plants for the frost damage they almost certainly have sustained. We take note of their vigor, plunge our hands into the earth to check their roots, check the moisture, check for pests. We wish we could spend more time observing, but the time for a long day’s work started about an hour before dawn. The hens are fed (our favorites are told a story), the chicks are checked for warmth, and the whole time our sweet farm dog shadows and pays no mind at all to frantic squawking birds.
Second cup of coffee and we remember a restless night’s sleep; born from the bright moon heading towards full again, the impending frost, and the long to-do list. But, no matter, because the frogs croaked a midnight orchestral melody and the owls added a back-up ensemble, eventually lulling us to sleep.
The farmer is the carpenter, the electrician, the mechanic, the grower, the vet, the cook, and the poet. The farmer’s day never ends, only changes from one number on the calendar to the next. But, this is no job; there are no chores except that of calling family every weekend, there is no clock except that of a hungry belly, and there is no boss except weather and bugs and soil. There is only purpose.
To steward this land, one must be resilient. But, resilience comes in many forms. To be resilient is to be chilled to the bone all day standing in front of a broken tractor or a hurt animal feeling powerless, but forging forward toward a solution. To be resilient is to be fixing fence in the dark, wanting nothing more than a kiss goodnight and a warm bed, but knowing that will come again soon. To be resilient is to grow food with care; to seed, plant, weed, water, weed, water, and harvest, and to hope to the moon that those customers show up to that rainy market. To be resilient is to know that strength lies in the quality of community, the greatness of love, and the humility of head, to continue to observe, learn, and steward.