My year in Ireland is over and I’m in Canada. I’m working on a farm. Everyday I wake up early to feed the animals: chickens and chicks, pigs and cows grazing across the road. I spend 20 minutes in the pasture waiting for the water barrel to fill up. In the horizon I can see the blue line of the sky fighting with the deep green of the field. Almost no clouds. I then walk to the field to begin my daily chores: weeding to protect the carrots, the pretty little clover lost in the invasive grass or the peas up with their little swords and thinning to let the beets, parsnips and rutabaga grow large enough to be harvested. The rest of the time, I enjoy cleaning the pig pen, tidying the barn, carrying around tools such as shovels, hoes, rakes, pitch forks, and wheel barrows here and there, everywhere. Then more weeding, sometimes by hand, other times with the hoe or the wheel hoe, standing up, sitting in the aisle, bending, with two arms in the effort, the hands in the earth. For sure I’m doing organic farming!
The farm is a CSA (Community supported agriculture) which means that not only do they produce food that will be sold locally (within 15 and 30 km) but also belong and participate in a community. Twice a week we harvest for the members and the Farmers’ Markets. Every “Harvest Day”, our bins are filled to the brim with fresh cut greens, onions and garlic and every week our boxes become more and more full with beets, peas, radishes, strawberries. Soon, we’ll be adding green beans, cauliflower, tomatoes and zucchini to the collection. As part of the community, the farm is always open to the people: members that come every week to pick up their share, visitors and families on Farm Crawl, school kids that spend a day discovering animals and take walks in the forest and friends during big events like the recent Solstice Party. Although things are not easy fior the farmers, people at the market complain when they see that the bundle of organic asparagus locally produced is twice the price they found in their grocery shop. Veggies are under-valued and sold at a price just enough to recover the cost – or less. The work is constant, hard and under-appreciated. Organic farming is not supported by the Government, thus faces unfair exploitation by distributors and retailers. It is part of a small and shrinking market.
Deep within Canada right now, working the dirt, I reflect back on my experience with farmers a few years ago in Senegal. Watering from a 15-metre deep well, less than 1 acre of onions that might not survive the drought, planting baby trees in a valley of sand ravages by the winds and finding a solution to cut the hay without a hay-bind to endure the dry season. I remember farmers going to the market to sell carrots only to find the ones from Europe at a cheaper price. I also remember the kids and the women in the fields, groundnut freshly harvested and eaten, and the much awaited mango fall after the first rains. Farming all over the world is the hardest, yet the most beautiful thing one can do.
student at Agris Mundus, a two-years master in agricultural development and management of natural resources oriented towards the tropics and developing countries. It aims at training students to cope with the current global/international concerns in agriculture and rural development and to formulate and provide effective and appropriate responses to complex agriculture and natural resources related issues. This european programme was developed by six different universities.