Farm Girl 101
I’ve always thought it would be fun to work on a farm. Luckily, my uncle owns one. I’m Mark’s niece from Portland, Oregon where I live in the suburbs and the average high temperature this summer has been 74 degrees. So when I decided to come down to Arizona for a month this summer and try my hand at farming, needless to say, I was in for some big changes. I experienced my first monsoon and dust storm in the same week. But three things I learned right off the bat, a farmer always: drives a truck, shuts his front gate, and watches out for scorpions. But at Rhibafarms there is a lot more to it.
The first part of farming I learned was caring for Chicken Town. Every morning they get fed, watered, and eggs are picked. This sounds easy enough, unless you’re constantly watching your back for a territorial rooster who might charge at you if you look at him wrong; and Chicken Town has five of them. Plus, the 15 turkeys sharing the space right now will follow you around like little feathered dogs; which doesn’t sound so bad until you realize they have no concept of personal space. Last but not least, chickens poop a lot, and guess who gets to clean up after them? The new girl, of course.
Before coming to work on the farm I had never mowed a lawn before, and my uncle sure changed that. I cut not just one part of his yard, but three. On a farm lawnmowers are used for more than just grass, they’re excellent at cutting down weeds as well. So I wasn’t just covered head to toe in grass, but in dust too.
One lesson I’ve learned is that you have to take care of your equipment because you can’t do what you do without it. So I had the privilege of washing and greasing the tractor. Pumping that oil into every moving joint was a great arm workout.
One of the most fulfilling parts of farming is the picking, when you get to see all that you’ve worked for. But at the ranch the water is so fertile that it seems everything grows beyond belief, and not just what you’re trying to grow. The tomato plants are taller than me and I had to climb through the jungle to find the little cherry tomatoes hidden inside. And in the squash and melon fields grass decided to grow, but not the kind everyone else has in their yards. You can’t cut it or you’ll cut the vines with fruit and vegetables growing on them, so I had to wade through knee, sometimes even waist high grass, searching for my prizes. But the kicker: our most plentiful crop at the time was watermelon, and it was the same color as the grass. I spent hours in the Arizona morning heat looking for watermelons and I still felt like I had probably missed some.
Every Friday almost every Rhibafarms employee, including the owners, spend the day in the kitchen; washing, weighing, packaging, and labeling our products from the week to sell at the markets on Saturday. At the end of the day we can all see the week’s achievements sitting in front of us ready to sell.
Saturdays are early; we had to be at the office at 5:00am to load up the truck with everything we were taking to the market. After getting everything set up and laid out it was a time of anticipation; will anyone come? Will they stop to look at our booth? Will we be able to sell out of anything? After the flow of shoppers start it’s a fun day. It seems every other person who stopped by had questions about what we were selling and I got to tell them how great everything was. And at the end of the day we had the feeling of success, our products were sold and our cash register was full, just as it should be.
What I’ve learned working on the farm this past month is that you can’t be afraid of bugs or getting dirty, and it is highly rewarding to grow your own food. You appreciate it much more when you’ve actually labored to get it to the table.