Tractors and Flowers

I’ve now had the chance to do a couple of things recently that were definitely out of my range of interests and experiences: drive a tractor, and cut flowers to arrange bouquets.

Driving the Tractor2013-07-20 09.31.23

I am not a machine person, and I don’t like driving, so I wasn’t especially excited to try driving the tractor. I have been taught how to drive standard several times, and it never took, so I was worried my driving challenges would manifest themselves in my tractor driving as well.

A few things, though, made tractor driving much more enjoyable and less challenging for me. First of all, the little Kabota tractor does not really go very fast, so most concerns I had about getting out of control were irrelevant. It also doesn’t stall, and I didn’t exactly have to worry about holding up traffic. With clear instructions from a patient teacher, and a few practice turns, I drove it out to the field, and was able to take it out and effectively tilled several beds, getting them ready for planting. No crashes, no running over planted beds, and the lines were even (almost) straight!

Flowers galore

As a group, we practicum students have spent a lot of time in the flower fields, both the perennial ones but especially the annual flowers – weeding and transplanting, and now cutting and deadheading. A lot of work has gone into keeping up a bed of plants that no one can eat, but they have finally flowered, and suddenly a riot of colours has taken over a section of the farm.2013-07-12 16.14.07

I never really got flowers. As a teen, when my parents would go away for a week or so in the summer, my mother would tell me to be sure I watered the flower gardens. And I would – once, maybe twice. And she would come home to a lot of very thirsty flowers. Because I just didn’t see them, didn’t notice. If I can’t eat it, but it still needs my attention to keep it alive, well, a plant is pretty much doomed.

And I cannot remember their names! I’ve been trying. Sunflowers, OK, I got that one. The Straw Flowers and Snap Dragons, I got those too. But the ageratums, asters, delphiniums… I know they’re there, but I can’t match the name to the flower.

But I’m learning, and I’m getting better. I harvested several of these flowers for the UBC farm market, and mixed them into bouquets. Certainly, if you can get a good market for flowers, they can be a very lucrative crop on a mixed organic farm, since there are not many sources for local, organic flowers. I think if you could get a good market for restaurants, weddings or other events, flowers would be a very beneficial crop, or if you use them as accents in a highly competitive farmer’s market atmosphere, but it seems that they are a bit more challenging to sell at a small market like UBC. Once you’ve cut them, they only last for a little while, and a lot of work does go into growing them.

New Exposures

These two experiences were good for me, being things I really had limited experience with before and needed to learn more about. While I’m still unconvinced at the value of growing a lot of annual flowers, I could learn to like the tractor, which definitely makes a farmer’s life much easier!

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