Of Farms and Fables combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Harvesting Cucumbers (Jennie)

A visit to Jordan's Farm in Cape Elizabeth, Friday the 28th of August. I picked cucumbers with "the guys" - Pee Wee, Orlando, Miguel, and Teliv. I say I picked cucumbers, but mostly I followed behind, gingerly parting leaves of the plants they'd already visited, chatting with them while they worked and wishing I had a better hold on my Spanish. This is what I always wish when I spend time on Penny's farm. That's okay, though, there's something kind of sweet about the awkwardness of it all, how we struggle to have the simplest conversation and rejoice at the slightest success. I discovered that Teliv is practically my neighbor, and asked about the rain, of course - Pee Wee shrugged and said it was okay. Seems like it's been a good year. I joined the troop as they were working their way down the rows of pickling cucumbers. When they started on the European slicers (PeeWee had to repeat this word for me three times: "slicers". I had never heard this classification. I've always thought of it as pickling cucumbers and "normal" cucumbers), I was handed an empty bucket of my own. I worked my way down the rows behind them feeling a bit like Sal in McClosky's classic, excepting that I was not eating my bounty as I went - I had no bounty. The boys took to throwing their cucumbers in my bucket in good-natured pity, until Pee Wee sent me to the front of the line, where I did fare better. When I finally dropped a long, ripe, and twisted European into my nearly empty bucket, Miguel nodded with satisfaction and coached me: "buenos".

I retreated to the cool of the farm stand to talk to Jasmine. Jasmine grew up on a farm in the County, where her family leases land to a large producer of broccoli. She described to me her affection for the smell of broccoli at the end of the season - uniformly rotting broccoli. While we talked, we rinsed the crates of cucumbers I had just helped (sort of) to bring in. Jasmine has always worked on farms. Growing up in the County, she could work on the school farm in place of taking chemistry. She is a recent graduate of UMaine Orono, with a degree in Creative Writing, and she carves herself at least a couple of weeks in the winter to hole up on her family's land and write.

On my way out I stocked up for the week on vegetables and picked a bouquet of gorgeous flowers from Jordan's "pick-your-own" flower beds. Later in the evening, I felt a twinge of that satisfaction I'm always reading about, when I sliced for dinner one of the cucumbers I had reached through those prickly plants to claim.