Previous to this internship, I wouldn’t have guessed that farming started out with so much time inside. Well, inside a greenhouse, that is. Though snow from this year’s brutal winter remained piled up two feet deep outside, spring had already arrived to the greenhouses of Clark Fork Organics, run by Kim Murchinson and Josh Slotnick.
We began with some spring cleaning: clearing out the dusty hanging tomato plants, basil, and peppers from last year’s crop. The chickens were also residing in the warm interior of the greenhouse, enjoying leftover squash and corn. With all the plants hauled out, we replaced the space with wooden tables that would support the thousands of seedling in need of planting. With blocks, dirt, and shovels, we leveled the tables on the clumpy ground so that there would be an equal distribution of water for all the trays.
Then began the planting. We mixed dark, rich soil with extra nitrogen and mycorrhizal fungi spores (which would provide nutrients through the plants’ roots) and filled dozens and dozens and dozens of trays, mainly ones with 72 cells. From previously sorted packets and bags, we dropped gritty seeds, smooth seeds, fat seeds, slim seeds, pokey seeds, slick seeds, long seeds, and round seeds into fingertip depressions in the cells. With a sprinkling of water, the trays were set on the table to soak up the sun and heat, and tray by tray we filled the entire greenhouse.
We planted a great variety of vegetables and herbs: scallions, kale, chard, peppers, tomatoes, cabbages, lettuce, onions, dill, basil, and many varieties of each. In a short amount of time, those minute seeds had cracked open and the green arm of the seedling had pushed through the soil and into the open air. Soon the greenhouse was a lovely speckled green and smelled, quite wonderfully, like spring.
Farming is hard work, but there is something so satisfying about the repetitious tasks of dropping a pinch of seeds into soil, carefully tugging a seedling out of its home for transplanting, or mixing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of deep, dark soil. Even as I found myself crouched down to the ground, plucking tiny weeds from newly-sprouted carrot rows, I found a certain enjoyment to being so close to the earth, among the roly-polies and crab spiders and tiny shoots of carrots that will be so sweet and crunchy come summertime. When we can so easily stroll into the supermarket and pull a bunch of kale from the rack, we don’t take into account the mountain of effort and resources it takes to turn a tiny round seed into a delicious addition to a meal. I’ve learned so much about farming from Kim and Josh, and most importantly I’ve learned to appreciate the food I’m eating. We all start small.