Bring on the Sun

Black Cat Farm--63rd Street

For farmers, springtime is a hurried and prolonged effort to plant most of the crops for the year–peas, fava beans, radishes, and greens for the spring and early summer; beans, carrots, summer squash, and beets for mid- and late-summer; tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, and winter squash for the late-summer and autumn.

The consequences of unending rain

Boulder’s long spate of rain this spring completely derailed that mission. The fields with their clay-heavy soil turned to mud–mud that threatened to transform into inhospitable adobe if agricultural machinery or even heavy footsteps compacted the ground. So, no planting for weeks.

There are certain inputs for planting, such as amount and skill level of labor, time available, machinery, and seeds and seedlings. These determine the number of crops that can be planted as well as the acreage. The rains severely cut into the time available to plant. Eric was concerned that he would have to plant drastically fewer crops on much smaller acreage when the rains stopped and the land dried out. The word “disaster” came up.

New farm workers

This year, the Black Cat farm sponsored four Mexican farm workers for seasonal work visas, who arrived in April. They were strangers and Eric did not know what to expect from them. He quickly learned that they would need extensive training because their previous farm experience was completely different from the organic farming of the Black Cat Farm. They who had worked on large commercial farms with no experience in organic or small farms. They had never encountered many of the vegetables grown on the Black Cat Farm, much less taste or farmed them.

When Eric asked them to harvest lettuce, they included the bitter leaves of lettuce that was going to seed. This resulted in an impromptu tasting session of bolted lettuce leaves.

It has been a learning experience for everyone but what these workers lacked in experience, they have made up in effort.

A reversal of fortunes

This was critical in the planting that occurred in the week after the rains stopped. For three days, Eric and all of the Black Cat Farm workers planted from sunrise to well after dark. At night, they worked with car head lights and cell phone flashlights illuminating the way.

Eric categorizes those days as ones of amazing effort that turned the farm’s prospects from disaster to somewhat less than optimum. They planted nearly everything and as much as Eric originally planned.

Meet the new crew members

As in any group, the four new farm workers have distinct personalities and skills, which have slowly become apparent in the last several months. Everyone has something to contribute beyond basic farming.

Luciano’s superpower is the strength of an ox. He lifts objects with ease with which Eric struggles. He is a gift to the health of Eric’s back.

Juan has mechanical and tractor-driving skills. He is a joyful person who sings as he works his way down rows of vegetables.

Jorge is the youngest but is the clear leader of the group. His father is a carpenter, so Jorge contributes carpentry, plumbing, and electrical skills. He has recently been putting together pig runs and repairing fences.

Eustorgio is older than the rest. Eric characterizes him as shy and quiet. He has experience taking care of animals.

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