Seeds of Transformation

By Jason Halm, Farm Manager


Even as the sun sets at 5:30 in the evening now and the afternoon sun’s tilted to more of a glancing angle than the blaring overhead blasts received in the summer, the farm is still abuzz with activity all over. As we prepare for the penultimate week of our fall farmshares, it’s an innate tendency to look back on the months that have passed since the sun last traced this angle across the sky.


We’ve become close as a team, including the new additions this year that were total strangers a year or, in some cases, even four months ago. The closeness was created not by the comfort of a perfectly stable season, but by the chaos of a farm season, both inherent in the nature of the work and unique to this wild, beautiful year.


This year proved, to me, that in order to work here or, indeed, on most farms, you need to have a really special combination of grit, determination, humor, intelligence, and ability to go with the flow. The plans put forth by Dan and me in February and March of 2021 guided us through the crop failures, drought, and biblical rains experienced this season, although those production challenges pushed us to improvise when necessary.


Our team expanded this year; we gained new key staff members in Savanna, Chuck, Alyssa, and Jim–people without whom this farm season would not have happened. We also gained, much to our delight, a few new key volunteers: Mary Ruggerio, Melanie Dawe, and Eric Izzo became mainstays alongside Wendy Montag, Sharon Sullivan, and Jeff Duncan. Loren Schepers encouraged and coached Dan and I when it was time to weld a burst pipe on the water reel–truly raising us up at our lowest hour. Intern, Diana Mondragon, popped into a wild farm season, unsure of what she was getting herself into, but sure that it was worthwhile and that she could make a difference—and, it is and she did. Carrie and Mac Thompson made cracking into a new farmer’s market and then switching it up to do Saturday farmstands an approachable and not incredibly intimidating task.


Our farm grew this year, both in terms of production and team size. But I also think seeds of a deeper transformation were sown this season–and I look forward to seeing the process of that growth, nonlinear as it may be, in the next months and years and decade.


And as friends inquire, “when does your season end?”, I know that in their mind, they see deep freezes and early sunsets and dead tomato plants in their own gardens. I see those, but I am also fortunate–every day–to see a hoophouse packed with spinach, chard, and lettuce. I see thousands of pounds of carrots and beets still packed into the cool dark clay, ready to be dug and washed and eaten, raw or cooked, with each other.


Though we celebrate the end of the season with big hugs and tasty treats for each departing staff member, a team canoe trip on the scenic Fox River, and a few extra days off, we also know that seasons don’t end, they blend into one another. The garlic planted a week ago becomes the green garlic and scapes and bulbs for the 2022 harvest, as well as the garlic we plant again next year. The leaves being trucked in now from the City of Naperville become, in a real sense, the soil we grow in within the next several months. And the seeds planted this year, watered in lightly, become the fruits of transformation over the coming years.


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