After a long and eventful summer, we are finally welcoming Fall with the arrival of October. Yippee!! A reminder that this upcoming week of 10/5/15 is the FIRST delivery of boxes for the 11 week Fall season.
As we begin this season of heat, winter squash, and the lengthening of the night, I’d like to share a reflection written by one of Join the Farm’s farm managers, Guadalupe Rojas. Guadalupe is a man of the earth. He loves our plants and LOVES the animals that live among the plants (which is a difficult balance to maneuver as an organic food grower!). As Farm Manager Reyna’s business partner as well as life partner, Guadalupe is a foundational part of the health and beauty of the vegetables that end up in your kitchen. Not to mention, he is a genius at sling-shotting, fire-throwing the weeds, and coaxing baby tomatoes into bounty.
Off we go!
I’m so happy to share a little about my life and family history for the first time.
I was born in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. My father came to work in the United States before I was born, and I’m from a family of farmers including most recently my father and grandfather. I feel a great love and a bond with the land, and I feel like it runs through my blood.
At a young age, when I was five years old, I started working with the men of the house in the corn fields. You’re probably asking yourself- what can a kid do in the field? Obviously, kids have less responsibility than the older workers but even when you are so young, there are ways to help out with the work. My job was to make the animals stop! I only had to stand in front of the animal with a stick in my hand so that they wouldn’t ruin the field.
However, once I turned 14 years old, I was given real responsibility. My day would start at 2:00 am when I had to feed the animals. Since we didn’t have tractors, the animals needed to be able to endure a day of hard work. We used two bulls and a horse to work. We loaded the animals with all of the tools, seeds and fertilizers that we would need for that day’s planting.
We worked with the seasons.
We didn’t have irrigation so we relied on a knowledge of our home’s weather patterns. Even though it was not always exact, the majority of the time the weather acted how we knew it would. The rain starts in the month of June. This is why we start our planting process six weeks prior; once the rain arrived, the seeds are ready for growing because they germinate in the humidity of the soil.
We always have hope that God will help us and will take care of our land where we don’t have control- but we go forward with a lot of joy in our hearts.
Again, the men from the family come to the field to pick the corn harvest that we use to feed ourselves and the animals, and to sell. But this time, the women would also come with us. My mother would walk two hours to get to the field that she was in charge of where she would cook for all of the workers. After cooking, she would harvest corn leaves with my grandmother. With these corn leaves, my grandmother would dedicate herself to selling tamales at the plaza.
There are so many details when it comes to growing corn that I would never finish if I tried to tell you it all! I have so many beautiful memories of when corn season arrived because I gave so much work, time and love to my land each year.
Growing corn is special for me because the corn’s seed germinates in my heart like it did in my ancestor’s hearts. When my wife, Reyna, (who is the Farm Manager) and I started began working for Join the Farm in 2012, I had always gotten very excited in particular about cultivating the corn crop for the CSA boxes. I believe that the land on which we grow our crops is not just for working- it’s much more than that! We should get to know it and have a personal relationship with it. I work with pleasure and excitement because this field is unique, special; it’s different from the other fields that I’ve had experience working in.
Starting the process of growing seed requires extra care. Watching the seeds you planted germinate, thinning the plants to give them the space they need to grow, irrigating, and removing the weeds- all of this is a process that creates a deep bond with the plant. Reyna tells me that I’m crazy because when we talk about what the plants like beyond water, soil and sun, I tell her that I like to talk to the plants and listen to music with them!
Reyna is my wife and she is a very hard-working woman. She started working as a fieldworker in the fields very young, but since she is from the city, she used to see the fields as a place of work. I remember when she felt like the field was too much for her. Even though I am only a worker in the field and I have never been to a university and don’t have an official title, I’ve learned much about the land by being in it.
This last year, I wasn’t able to be around for what was being done in the Join the Farm fields because of my other job in the celery fields. As a result, Reyna and Jeannette (Farm Fellow) have largely been in charge. Even though we hadn’t planned on growing corn this year, Reyna found some old seeds from 2012 and decided to plant them, despite their age. Usually it has been my responsibility to take care of the corn from planting; to applying the organic caterpillar deterrent when the ear has already set in the last four weeks; to harvest- but this year, Reyna was in charge!
This year, I felt very proud of my wife. She took care of the plants by herself and knew the exact time to plant before the caterpillars came (which happened to be the same time to plant in Mexico!). She was working with the weather! As a result, there was no need to battle the caterpillars this year.
I have always enjoyed the flavor in the corn that we have grown, but this year especially gave me a great satisfaction because I’ve seen how much Reyna has grown and how much her relationship with the land has developed. Now, she is truly a farmer. In her, the old seed that has run through her blood from her farmer grandparents has germinated.
It is an honor and a gift to be able to work at Join the Farm. Know that each one of us does their work with a great attitude and with love. I hope you enjoy your corn as much as our family enjoyed growing and eating it!
With great love and respect,
Guadalupe Rojas, Join the Farm Farm Manager
I hope you enjoy this upcoming week of delicious, locally-grown food!
Until next week,
Join the Farm! Farm Fellow