Moving to a 4 Day Week!

This week, my practicum program moved abruptly from once a week to 4 days a week, and it was a busy week of perennial weeding, tool sharpening, building, integrated pest management and bed preparation.

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about organic farming is the labour involved. UBC Farm has an army of volunteers, research students and faculty, staff and us, the practicum students, all eager to contribute to the farm’s production and maintenance. We spent a good few hours weeding a few rows of perennial flower beds, which started out almost completely overgrown. Weeding is a constant battle on an organic farm, but it’s a pretty satisfying task in my mind. You get to hone in, tune out the world, and see visible results from your work. Just ignore the fact that a week later, you might not be able to tell that you did anything! Our many-handed help was also used to quickly transplant a few beautiful rows of Walla Walla onions.

Putting in hoophouse posts

Putting in hoophouse posts

This week, we got into some building. We set the posts for a 40’x12′ high tunnel, where we will grow tomatoes and peppers this season. I learned that setting a square is something of a difficult task to start with – the Pythagorean Theorem was mentioned, and I had to dig around through 12+ years of forgetting to bring up a memory of high school trigonometry (to my relief, someone else had the iPhone app that just figures that stuff out!). We also were tested on our trig angles and measurements in building the wood frame for a chicken coop. We didn’t get either structure finished, even with 13 of us working on them all day Friday, but I got to use some powertools, so I was happy! We also had a session on tool sharpening, using files, sandpaper and carbide to sharpen a few of the farm’s pruners and harvest knives, emphasizing the importance of keeping tools well-maintained to lengthen the life and utility of the tools.

Sam finding a tent caterpillar web bundle

Sam finding a tent caterpillar web bundle

In another example of how organic farming is labour intensive, we spent a good portion of Saturday in “Integrated Pest Management,” a.k.a hand picking and crushing leaf roller caterpillars off leaves of apple trees, and seeking out webbed nests of hundreds of tent caterpillars, both of which would cause significant damage to the foliage, flowers and fruit in the small orchard. So much time spent seeking out and destroying these pests certainly gives perspective on how much labour goes into growing high quality organic food.

So, the next time you consider complaining about how expensive things are at the farmer’s market, remember just how much labour these farmers are putting into growing that amazing, healthy, sustainable food. And ask yourself, don’t they deserve to be fairly paid for their work?

Many helpful observers as I screw in some chicken coop crossbeams

Many helpful observers as I screw in some chicken coop crossbeams

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