Our Inseparable Bond with the Land
Tristan Wallack, our Senior Director of Programming and Operations, reflects on our connection to the land and shares news of a related development at our Pittstown farm.
In the middle of January, I had the opportunity to have a Zoom call with an Executive Director of a nonprofit that provides mental health support. She was interested in bringing children from her programs to the farm this season. She is a social worker, and when I commented that I found harvesting in the fields to be very therapeutic, she wondered if there is some sort of biological instinct of being connected to the land since it is rich in human history.
Her comment made me reflect more on why being in the middle of a field of fresh produce was such a satisfying feeling. Standing out there under an endless sky, there was a serenity. And it sounds strange, but I could actually feel an energy. But for me in my first season at the farm, that was only part of the experience at America’s Grow-a-Row. When it was coupled with the excitement and passion of 100 volunteers harvesting a crop, and knowing that the food was going to help others who really needed it, that was the proverbial icing on the cake.
Due to limitations on being able to socialize, like everyone else I had been trying to find ways to keep my brain occupied. In the fall I decided I wanted to read a good book. I am sure it was subconscious since I had been working on a farm, but I suddenly had a craving to reread The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. If you have not read it, it is a story of farmer in China in the 1800s. The main character’s connection to the earth was deep. It meant everything to him. In most basic terms, if there was no food, there was no income and ultimately there would be starvation. The land had enormous power. Back then, as it is for today’s farmers, land equaled livelihood. For AGAR it is about helping to feed others and providing healthier options. But the bottom line is that today the land is just as powerful as it has always been.
At AGAR we know how important it is to be good stewards of the land. And that is why our mission includes a pillar that we “contribute to the sustainability of agriculture.” In keeping with this tenet, one of our big off-season projects this year has been installing a 20-beehive apiary with a pollinator field. By the end of the season, we expect to have between 500,000 to 1,000,000 honey bees. They will play a critical role in pollinating our apple orchards. With their work alone, we are expecting to increase our yields and have 75,000 more pounds of apples than last year. I am looking forward to seeing them work their magic, but I am even more excited to be in the fields again and feel that connection to the land.