On April 11, 2019 I made my way to Rain Crow Farm not for the first time, but with a new sense of perspective.
I had been to the urban farm nestled in East Johnson City once prior to meet up with Dylan and Rachel, but when visiting the farm back in January, I had no idea I’d be spending so much time getting to know the land and folks behind Rain Crow. Upon making the commitment to be involved with F.A.R.M. in early spring, I had many questions, and admittedly concerns, but perhaps my biggest bridle was my own self doubt surrounding my prior knowledge of farming, and how much help I would actually be. Was I experienced enough? Would I catch on quick enough? Would my lack of farm knowledge be more of a hindrance than a help? Despite growing a small garden with my parents at my childhood home each year, I had little to no knowledge about raising food. But Rachel put it simply, “plants want to grow.” This small statement impacted my overall outlook on the entire mentorship and growing food in general. In only a month’s time, I’ve seen seeds touch soil, and those plants go off to market. Witnessing things come full circle in such a short amount of time, and having even a small hand in the process is moving, and heartening; a small metaphor nodding to a bigger picture.
My farm mentors have been patient and enlightening educators to date, and are really making the experience a positive one for me. They’ve already taught me more than I can summarize in this short reflection. My first days at Rain Crow, we did quite a bit of bed preparation, seeding, and transplanting. I learned that methods can vary to some degree, but can often result in similar outcomes. Dylan explained that when you get down to it, growing food is all about the relationship farmers have with their soil. We added amendment, worm castings, and kelp to ours to boost nutrients for the growing season. “This will all build up in the soil creating micro nutrients for the plants to pull from, so they can have an easier time in the long run. That way, the nutrients is available as they need it. You want it to be in the soil at a balanced level. A stressed out plant won’t grow well and will attract bugs.” So really, plants are just like us. They healthier we are, the healthier we stay. We are what we eat. Literally. Just like plants.
In recent days, I’ve gone out to Grand Oak Farm in Jonesborough, TN where Rain Crow has a few plots of root vegetables as well. Out there we cultivated, harvested flowers, and I learned a good bit about identifying pests. Leave the ladybugs, get rid of the cucumber beetles, project your plants from cabbage moths, and so on. One thing I found to be particularly interesting was that despite the short distance from Rain Crow Farm to Grand Oak Farm, the weather can really vary based on each farm’s location. Seemingly, the farms were within a close proximity in my mind, the mountains and the location of the interstate heat path play a huge determining factor in how much rain each area receives. Something to think about when investing in farm property.
With a few months to go, I’m looking forward to seeing things progress on both farms, and learning more about how our crop production will turn over with the season’s change. We currently have a big batch of spinach, arugula, salad turnips, radishes, and green onions, but before long, the farm will be spilling over with even more color, from our flowerbeds to our rows of nightshades and brassicas. I’m enjoying every step of the process so far, from watching beets come up out of the soil, to shoveling compost for hours on end in the hot sun. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding. Here’s to summer, self growth, plant growth, and resilience.
Hasee Ciaccio, 2019 FARM Intern
Rain Crow Farm & Grand Oak Farm – Jonesborough, TN