What our farm manager Adam Wheelock learned in his first season with Tomato Mountain.
Out on the farm, winter is a time to recuperate and reflect on the past season. Now that we’ve taken a good look at 2021 and we’ve got our 2022 plan outlined, I wanted to take some time to more formally introduce myself and share a bit about what I learned last year.
I joined the Tomato Mountain team because like many others over the past year, I felt compelled to more closely align my work with my heart. My grandpa grew up on a farm in Northern Michigan. Though he left when he got old enough to work in Detroit’s rapidly growing auto industry, he and my grandma ultimately bought a parcel from the farm and retired there. I visited my grandparents on the farm often throughout my childhood, and the peace they felt there was palpable. When I stumbled upon the opportunity to work at Tomato Mountain, I called Chris and Kristin right away, and though I was coming from a software background, they could sense my excitement about agriculture/local food systems and knew my skills would translate well to farm life.
It was a lot to take in when I first started, but I had a grin on my face the whole time (still do). Being out in the sun (and, often, rain), breathing the fresh air, hearing the sounds of wind and insects, and feeling the soil beneath my feet–it just feels so natural. As I got more and more familiar with what it takes to keep this farm running smoothly, I realized that I was learning more than I had even anticipated. I’ve learned more about irrigation systems than I care to admit. I can find a hornworm on a tomato plant in record time (and, coincidentally, I learned what a hornworm is). I now know that plants can take on a lot of stress and still turn out great. Yes, some things were much more difficult than I could ever have imagined–I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to read and interpret weather forecasts in order to plan time-sensitive work, and I was repeatedly reminded that putting something off will rarely turn out in your favor (but did realize that working ahead can get you out of a snag on a day when rain unexpectedly shows up). Perfect understanding may not be possible, but curiosity seems to be the quickest way to mastery, and I’ve learned that even on the busiest days, things won’t burn down if I step aside for a few moments to have an engaged conversation with a visitor.
We ended this season hand-harvesting about 37,000 lb of carrots in a short window while conditions allowed. It’s been quite an adjustment moving from the craziness of the end of the season to the calmer planning and administrative priorities we focus on during the slow part of the year. Shoot, the whole year has been an adjustment for all of us, am I right?! I hope that, like me, all of you Tomato Mountaineers have had a moment to rest and reflect over the holidays. It means so much to all of us at Tomato Mountain to have such engaged and thoughtful members supporting our work. Thanks to you all, we can expand the variety of crops we grow, and we can get you more veggies with that incredible Tomato Mountain quality you’ve come to cherish. I’m sorry if we’ve ruined grocery store tomatoes for you ;). I know I certainly feel spoiled.
Stay safe and be excellent to each other, let’s get this 2022 season started!