A dream of mine is coming true. After obsessively checking the weather every day this week, and expecting a cold, cloudy, rainy morning for our very first work party at First Root Farm, we were blessed, instead, with a bright, clear, sunny fall day. The leaves surrounding our field were red and gold, the sun shone on bales of straw and freshly turned soil, the sky soared blue and clear above us, and the air was crisp and sharp.
Five months ago, when the idea of running my own farm switched from a far-off dream to a very-possible reality, I imagined a place where folks would come to share in hard work and good food. I imagined bringing people together on the land, sharing my passion for soil and sky and seed, and for the simple miracle of breaking bread together after a day of meaningful work. I imagined kids and adults planting and hoeing and harvesting side by side, and lots of laughing in the field, and the kind of gratitude that comes from doing work you love with people you love in dear places.
I had no idea how quickly that vision would turn into reality. Yesterday afternoon, a group of about twenty folks – friends, family, and neighbors – gathered at First Root Farm to help us put our very first crop into the ground: garlic. Some folks came from over an hour away (thank you to our friends from The Farm School) to be with us at our first planting. Others came from just down the road, like Pete Merrill at Codman Community Farm, who came with a dump truck full of gorgeous compost (thanks, Pete). Some folks had never planted a clove of garlic before in their lives, and others had been doing it every fall for almost as long as they could remember. Being out on our land with such wonderful, enthusiastic, generous people is the best beginning I can imagine for First Root.
Garlic ready to plant; straw ready to be spread as mulch.
We put about 680 cloves of garlic into the ground. They’ll establish extensive root systems this fall, and the straw much will keep them warm all winter. Next spring, they’ll sprout and grow tall, and if we’re looking, we’ll harvest 680 heads of garlic next July.
Gorgeous seed garlic from Maggie’s Farm and Land’s Sake
The garlic we planted was generously donated by two farms that are both a part of First Root’s story. Nate, at the Farm School, gave us about 100 heads of seed garlic that Ariel and I planted, mulched, weeded and harvested as part of our year at Maggie’s Farm. Melanie at Land’s Sake gave us the rest. Land’s Sake was the very first farm I worked on, and the garlic we put into the ground yesterday was grown from garlic that I harvested, weeded, planted, and harvested again. What a blessing that we were able to plant garlic with such a rich history, seed that is already a part of the story that ties us to the land and to the community of farmers I count myself lucky to be a part of.
Planting garlic isn’t hard. Here’s how we did it. First, we hand-dug the bed:
Next, we marked our three rows with string:
Then, after a quick demonstration of how to plant:
our hard-working crew of volunteers jumped right in.
Droppers dropped garlic cloves along the string-lines:
while planters buried them deep in the earth.
Just as we finished planting, Pete, from Codman Community Farms, arrived with a load of gorgeous, rich, crumbly compost. A huge thank you to Pete for all his support as we embark on this project. Compost is magic stuff, and all the gardners who helped out yesterday agreed that this was an espeically beautiful load.
We top-dressed the garlic bed the old fashioned way. Some folks filled buckets with shovelfuls of compst, others walked down the bed, dumping it out, and others raked it into the soil.
Finally we covered the garlic with a thick layer of straw. All winter, it will insulate the garlic against the cold and protect it from wind and snow. Next spring, the seeds will sprout and poke through all that organic matter, reaching toward the sun.
Our morning of hard work paid off – a beautiful bed of garlic, mulched and ready for winter:
Hard work and good food are two of my favorite things about farming. We left the garlic alone and headed to the back corner of the farm for a fall feast. It was a true celebration. We ate fresh bread and good cheese, yummy lentil soup, butternut squash salad, lentil salad, roasted brussel sprouts, homemade bread stuffed with leeks, cheese, and broccoli, delicious quiche, golden raspberry jam (not by the spoonful, although we could have), apple crisp. The food was incredibly good, the company was stellar, the day bright. If you could plant gratitude, I believe it would be growing in thickets at First Root Farm.
A heartfelt thank-you to everyone who came to share in our excitment, get their hands in the dirt, and have a great meal. I can’t imagine a better send-off for our garlic seed. It was certainly the sunniest, most satsifying, grateful, and joyful garlic planting I’ve ever been a part of.
To see more pictures, check out Tim Sackton’s flickr page. A huge thank-you to Tim (otherwise known as the official photographer of First Root Farm) for taking such wonderful photos!