Archives for posts with tag: farms

wisconsin farm 1
Good Clean Dirt for My Grandsons
by Thomas A. Thrun

What do I tell them, my two young grandsons, in 2021?
How do I explain, simply, the importance of good clean dirt
and its role in healing our earth and slowing the warming?

The oldest reminds me he’s almost seven! His brother
proclaims, I’m five and a half! Tucking them in, I paraphrase
Tennessee Ernie Ford: God bless your pea-picking hearts!

I dim their room’s lights. I sigh to myself, almost cry, for I
am a Baby Boomer, born of parents of The Greatest Generation,
per former NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw’s book of 1998.

Pa and Ma farmed 80 acres in southern Wisconsin (1944-1990).
They’d each grown up with almost nothing in The Depression,
courted during WWII and raised us kids with cows and chickens.

Tobacco was our main cash crop, the one that paid the taxes
and helped all us get through college. Pa said, You kids don’t need
to wash your hands to eat lunch out here. It’s just good clean dirt!

Our farm basically was Sustainable long before the term
was fashionable. Pa did not like chemicals, but did use 2,4-D
to keep the thistles and nettles from shorting out the pasture fence.

Pa cultivated between tobacco rows with one horse, and we all
followed with our hoes, working out the weed sprouts between plants.
Come harvest, few weeds were left to damage the precious leaves.

The grandboys and I now play farm in our condo basement
with my 1950s vintage rubber cows, toy tractors, and implements.
I’ve built replicas of our 1900 barn, wood silo, and other buildings.

I’ve modpodged family photos to the undersides of hinged roofs
with captions detailing the care of livestock and the land itself.
And I talk about all this as we play, hoping dearly some sinks in.

For now (and if for some reason I am not around to witness
their becoming young men), this poem will have to do. Along
with others and the 125-page/400-photo memoir I’ve penned.

I want them to get good clean dirt stuck under their fingernails.
I want then to appreciate our Wisconsin conservation heritage and
have my copy of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac.

I want to tell them about former Gov. Gaylord Nelson. About
my picking up road litter and a very warm bottle of Blatz beer with
two friends, high school girls, on the very first Earth Day in 1970.

If nothing else, I want Ben and Miles to be Conservation Voters.
They do not know yet, but it’s already in their blood. I want them
to learn of Glasgow, where earth’s healing begins . . . again.

And, if only for a day, both sometime should eat lunch in a field,
with hands stained in harvest of organic food for others. I want them
to understand land ethics. To heal the earth, each in his own way.

PHOTO: Marinette County, Wisconsin, farm by Milo Mingo.

Thrun2

NOTE1 FROM THE AUTHOR: Raised as a Badger State farm boy, the land always has been important to me. I am the son of a second-generation Wisconsin farmer. Growing up in the 1960s, my father often impressed upon us how fortunate my sisters and I were to have electricity, refrigeration, TV, and indoor, running water . . . among many other things. My father and his brothers all were born before WWI and knew the meaning of real hard work. They were tied close to the land, and often exchanged labor with other neighboring farmers and relatives. We used mostly hand tools, hoes instead of herbicides as much as possible. Labor from us, his children, was free and expected. Pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals were expensive.

PHOTO: Poet Tom Thrun and his twin sister, Nancy, about 1959, on their work horse. Older sister, Ruthie, holds the single-row tobacco cultivator.

Thrun3

NOTE2 FROM THE AUTHOR: It is important t me that my children and grandboys know about all this, especially living here in this state with its rich (though now threatened) conservation heritage and ethics . . . as important as breathing, home cooking, poetry, charity, Country and Classical Music, and the sense of community. I now understand how my own father grew to hate pickled fish. I took an interest in writing early on, and my older sister gave me a paperback of Robert Frost’s Complete Poems when I was 13. The rest is poetic history.

PHOTO: Poet Tom Thrun has countless hours recreating his family farm for his children and two grandboys. His model features toy animals, toy tractors, other machinery from the 1950s and 60s, as well as arn, pig house, hen house, outhouse, tobacco shed, granary, and other structures. He has attached photos, some going back 100 years, to the undersides of the roofs. Thrun also has written a 100-plus-page Thrun Farm Family Memoir with over 400 photos. Through the model and book, he has captured the essence of an early-to-mid-20th-Century Wisconsin farm.

Thrun1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas A. Thrun, retired in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, is an English/Journalism graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He edited weekly newspapers both in Wisconsin and Washington State, among other varied career choices. Thrun cites his Wisconsin farming heritage and love for Robert Frost’s poetry among top influences of his own poetic work. He has been published in his retirement both in Wisconsin and other national online anthologies. He is included among the poets whose poems on “Words” have been selected for the upcoming 2022 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar.  Thrun and his wife have two grown children and two grandsons.  Thrun and his wife have two grown children and two grandsons.

pasture-with-barns-cos-cob.jpg!Large
Earth Care
by Martin Willitts Jr

I worked every summer on my grandparents’ farm
where they were using the old methods of hand
plowing, rotating crops, using manure in the soil,
never hearing the word organic. Earth-care was a part
of fulfilling God’s plan, a kind of prayer, greeting
each day before the sunrise and staying up past
starburst nights watching daily creation.

I tended to the barn animals, pulling milk into a pail
or searching for eggs, before pushing the plow.
I was too young to know about the fragile nature of earth,
the interconnectedness of land and water, mass extinctions,
but I was conversant with the language of the bees.

What I knew was rotate crops, plant seed, trust irrigation,
withstand grandmother’s interrogation: did I thank God
when I opened the land, and did I praise the seed
before covering it? When the crops were ready, we thanked
the plants for their offerings. Every praise was gratitude,
respecting the land. I never heard of crop dusting,
herbicides, or large farm monopolies.

Planting with intention means being intentional,
aware some plants deplete the soil,
and some plants work together with other plants.

As an adult, I learn not everyone respects the land —
tearing mountain tops for strip mining, dumping
toxic waste, using neon lights that hide the night sky.
Water levels rise with excuses. All I can do is
plant some trees, start community gardens, and hope
people younger than me are smarter than my generation.
Earth care is human care. At night I ask, “What else can I do?”

I keep receiving suggestions.

PAINTING: Pasture with Barns, Cos Cob (Connecticut) by John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I started working on my grandparents’ farm when I was five. When I was 17, I was drafted, my grandparents died one day apart from each other, and the farm was taken by the bank. I wrote about my farming years in Harvest Time (Deerbrook Editions, 2021). For years, I never stayed in one place for very long, until about 2009 when I finally had a house to grow food and healing plants. All the earth-care I had learned as a child is now called organic and free-range. But over the years, I have seen the destruction of the land affecting my small space. When I moved in, the soil was grey and didn’t contain any nitrates, but, with my training, I made the soil rich again in a few months. The first sign of life was the return of worms and crickets. But, still, the weather is changing and I’m trying to keep pace. ¶ Food that I grew back in 2009, became impossible two years later. The first vegetable to be harmed was broccoli, and years later five other plants don’t have the right weather conditions to grow. This is visual proof of the harm to the environment. A couple years ago, I noticed food insufficiency and started community gardens. This year I was group planting trees. At my age, it is getting harder to do big projects, so I am looking for small, manageable ones to keep trying to help the soil. ¶ I swear, sometimes I hear the earth’s pain. The only thing I can do is do whatever I can as long as I can. I want a better future for children.

willlitts

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martin Willitts Jr, edits the Comstock Review and judges the New York State Fair Poetry Contest. His work has been nominated for 17 Pushcart and 13 Best of the Net awards. His awards include: Winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Contest; Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2015, Editor’s Choice; Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, Artist’s Choice, 2016; Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, 2018; and Editor’s Choice, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2020. His 25 chapbooks include the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award winner The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 21 full-length collections, including Blue Light Award winner The Temporary World. His most recent book is Harvest Time (Deerbrook Editions, 2021), and his forthcoming collection is All Wars Are the Same War (FutureCycle Press, 2022).

marina-helena-muller-9qt0QKk_N3M-unsplash
Amends
by Jessica Gigot

It is hard to hold a homegrown
            head of broccoli in your hand
and not feel proud.
Seed to start,

seedling to robust stalk and floret,
I cradle this broccoli like my first born.

The infant I protected from damping-off,
            aphids, club root, and pesky flea beetles
                          dotting up all the leaves.

The green gleams and sparkles.
In that one hour on that one day

I made amends with the earth.

Other times, I buy the shipped-in stuff,
            California’s wellspring
Touched by a thousand hands
            and automated sanitation.

Sweat makes this one something special—
            the give and take of it all,
                          my muddied pride.

PHOTO: Broccoli garden. Photo by Marina Helena Muller on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem after working in the garden last summer, feeling proud of what I had grown and also overwhelmed by how vast and harmful our food systems has become over the past several decades. Chef Alice Waters wrote, “Finding the beauty in food can change your life,” and I believe that appreciating the poetics of food and the work of growing food will lead us towards farms that are more ecological and in balance with the earth.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Gigot is a poet, farmer, and wellness coach. She lives on a small sheep farm in the Skagit Valley. Her second book of poems, Feeding Hour (Wandering Aengus Press, 2020) won a Nautilus Award and was a finalist for the 2021 Washington State Book Award. Jessica’s writing and reviews appear in several publications, including Orion, Taproot, and Poetry Northwest, and she is currently a poetry editor for The Hopper. Her memoir, A Little Bit of Land, will be published by Oregon State University Press in 2022.

eric-fleming-B2LYYV9-y0s-unsplash
How to See the World: Hunger
by Paula J. Lambert

When I first moved from Massachusetts to Indiana
I didn’t know how to see the flat black fields stretching

all around me as anything but oceans of mud. It took
time to understand the lay of that land, its change

of season, and that newly turned soil as black as that
held every promise of richness, newness, nourishment,

food. I began to see it wasn’t quite flat, that not all the
soil was so dark, that every rise or mounding, every

possible shade of brown was a different kind of soil,
meant for a different kind of planting. But while it was

still new to me, when I felt the first pangs of homesick,
a wanting that has never left, I sat down on the edge of

one of those fields next to the man I knew by now I was
destined to marry (still blessedly ignorant I was destined,

too, to divorce him) and gestured hopelessly across the
landscape. There’s nothing to see here. Nothing to look at.

The bleakness of what stretched around us matched
only the bleakness of what was inside. To his credit, he

didn’t lash out or take my observation as insult. He said
one of the few things I ever thought wise or helpful.

I’ve been to the mountains, he said, and I also thought there
was nothing to see. Those mountains were always in the way.

PHOTO: Cornfield and the Milky Way, Greenfield, Indiana. Photo by Eric Fleming on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE PHOTOGRAPHER: When I stayed at a working farm outside of Indianapolis, I knew I wanted to take photos of the Milky Way while I was there. I was hoping for a clear sky but it was pretty cloudy this night, I took this shot during a short break in the clouds. I had the cornfield in my head before I took this shot because I thought it was a great representation of rural Indiana.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is one of four “How to See the World” poems in a collection by the same title, published in September 2020 by Bottom Dog Press as part of their Harmony Series. “How to See the World: Hunger” is the first of the four, the rest are “Thirst,” “Fire,” and finally, “Breath.” They are meant to correspond with the elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air. The full collection was written in the spring and early summer of 2020 when we first self-quarantined and then stayed put. The poems were largely a sort of “how to get through the day” meditative response to the pandemic, though, as kindly written by Rose M. Smith in one of the book’s blurbs, they are about much more: how interconnected we all are while teetering at the brink of change… “How to See the World: Hunger” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Lambert.Author Photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paula J. Lambert of Columbus, Ohio, has authored several collections of poetry including How to See the World (Bottom Dog Press 2020). Recipient of two Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards and two Greater Columbus Arts Council Resource Grants, she has twice been in residence at Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She owns Full/Crescent Press, a small publisher of poetry books and broadsides through which she has founded and supported numerous public readings and festivals that support the intersection of poetry and science. Learn more at paulajlambert.com. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

rightdx licensed
The Farmer calls for the migrant
by Cruz Villarreal

La pisca los busca,
y la siguen.

They follow the crops like hungry sheep,
who seek greener pastures, only they
must feed first the shepherds
with the labor of their hands
and wash the feet of the patrón, with the sweat of their brow.

They face the cold and dampness of the early morn,
no reluctance in their hastened steps.
The midday sun lashes them with rays of heat
that roasts them to a copper brown.
The brown that those in town resent.

The essential worker that picks from dawn to dusk
and sleeps in rundown shacks approved by
USDA.

They exist but are nonexistent to the squeezer of the melon
or watermelon thumper.
A penny a pound to face the dangers of the field.
Five pair of hands, five sets of legs, five aching backs.
Mother, father, sister and brothers,
it takes a family to pay the rent and feed the belly.
Vacations are for gringos and their kids.

Some migrants get to stay,
some run away when the migra shouts,
“Show me your papers.” and “Como te llamas?”

In a poetic refrain, we feel the pain of Jesus, Maria y Jose,
but they are invisible,
to the picker of the apple or the peach
who carefully select from abundant shelves
of uptown grocers,
the fruits of the migrant’s labor.

PHOTO: Seasonal field workers pick and package strawberries in the Salinas Valley of Central California. Photo by Rightdx, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this piece after reading an article about Michigan migrant workers and the resistance of Michigan Farm Bureau to Covid-19 safety requirements. It reminded me how we dismiss these workers because we do not see the labor behind the convenience of having produce at our fingertips, and the only reason they were in the news was because Michigan farmers might be impacted. I am a son of migrants and know of the hard life they lead for so little pay, yet their work is essential to the economy.

cruz1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cruz Villarreal is a poet in Michigan. He has degrees in professional communications and creative writing, and tutors writing at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan. For more of his work, visit his website.

orchard

At The Farmer’s Market
by Tom Lagasse

Before the sun rises, they answer their call
to duty, like soldiers and monastics, while most
of their customers remain comfortably ensconced
in the cocoon of dream. Intertwined in a lovers’

relationship, the farmers reap the fruits of the earth,
of their labor they have husbanded from seed. They
tuck their produce into beds of pickup trucks and trailers.
One by one they arrive at the green or an empty church

Parking lot to create a market, ancient as society, where
they assemble their canvas tent village and folding tables.
With a retailer’s eye, they display week’s cornucopia: ears
of corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions . . . The aroma

Of humus and exhaustion permeates the air. With their cracked,
calloused hands and fingernails semi-clean,,they wear
their Saturday best. Here the community is fed, and the cost
of exchanging love for money is rooted in hunger.

PHOTO: Staff from Tonn’s Orchard, Burlington, Connecticut.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this with a specific farmer in mind, but it speaks to farmers in general. Without farmers feed ing us, we cannot have a society and all the trappings.

lagasse

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Lagasse’s poetry has appeared in Freshwater Literary Review, Word Mill Magazine, The Monterey Poetry Review, Wine Drunk Sidewalk,   iamnotasilentpoet.com, Wax Poetry & Art, and Plum Tree Tavern, along with a half dozen anthologies. He lives in Bristol, Connecticut.