One of our fields is right along Unionville Indian Trail Road, and everything we do is in clear view of people driving. This is one of the main roads through Unionville, as well as one of the main routes to Piedmont High School, so there is often heavy traffic. I have noticed people absolutely love to check out what we are doing. They stare. They wave. They blow their horn. What’s up with this? People in Unionville are friendly, however, I’m a confirmed recluse, so I know I don’t have that many friends!
I think a big part of why this field gets so much attention is because we live out in the country, and country people absolutely want to know what’s going on! We also farm a little differently than most of the Union County growers. This isn’t a soybean farm; it is a fruit and vegetable farm. Fruits and vegetables require a lot of attention, so we are often out there working. Most of the people in our area who grow fruits and vegetables are just growing a home garden. Even so, our methods are much different than most home gardeners, which may also cause people to want to check it out.
For example, we do almost everything by hand, not with a tractor. So it is not unusual to see someone out in our field tilling with a small rotary tiller, planting by hand or hoeing by hand. The rows are spaced very close together, since we don’t have to fit a tractor in the field. This allows us to intensely plant our land. Not only that, we almost never plant more than a row or two of a single crop in one place to avoid a monocrop situation. So, our field looks like a patchwork quilt of stripes, with the stripes being different crops. To top it off, we lay straw between the rows to suppress weeds. This is not how my grandpa used to do it! It really does look quite unusual and very pretty.
Here is another funny reason this field attracts so much attention. Two high school boys work for us, so they are often the ones down in the field picking, hoeing, spreading straw, shovelling compost, mowing, or tilling. These guys love to work in shorts, cowboy boots, and no shirt. They crack me up! All their buddies drive by in their big trucks and blow the horn at them and wave. Remember, we are on the main road to Piedmont High School, so there is no shortage of high schoolers in big trucks driving past. These guys seem to know everyone who drives by. Last spring, I spotted one of them standing on top of a huge pile of compost in the back of the truck (he was supposed to shovel it out into the row we were going to plant) in his normal boots and shorts attire. I wonder if the high school girls drive by just to see what these two guys are doing.
The biggest reason I think people always want to see what we are doing is because farming like this is a dying tradition. Almost all farming now occurs with huge planters and combines. There are some people who find our farm very intriguing, and maybe it does their heart good to see a small family farm still thriving. After all, this is not something you see every day. Imagine if a small farm were on every corner, and provided fresh food for the community. Now, that’s something to get excited about and honk for! Keep farming!
Eat your veggies,