Barking Moon Farmer Melissa recently entered a Farmers’ Market Essay contest. Unfortunately, she didn’t win, but we thought we would share the essay she wrote anyway. Here it is! Enjoy reading.
Lost Wedding Rings and Trucks that Don’t Start
I lost my wedding ring on an icy morning in October. Somewhere between the house and barn, it fell off my finger. It wasn’t until I was behind the wheel of our Ford truck, precariously topped with produce for the farmers’ market, and turned the ignition that I realized my finger was bare. My heart flipped in my chest.
“Patrick, my wedding ring is gone,” I gasped.
Patrick, our farm intern, was sitting in the passenger seat of the cab with my 18-month old son buckled into the car seat between us.
“Uh-oh,” he said.
I jumped out of the truck to scan the ground for any sign of the ring, but the morning was still dark and the barn light so dull I couldn’t see any diamonds gleaming in the dirt. I was frantic. My husband, Josh, was away unexpectedly at a funeral and we were already late for market. I wanted to drop onto my knees and sift through the dust and gravel of the barn floor. But, I couldn’t. There was no time to search.
I hauled myself back into the truck and turned the engine over, but nothing happened. The truck didn’t start. And it dawned on me that we had forgotten, in my husband’s absence, a crucial detail. We had neglected to plug in the truck overnight.
Our Ford is strong, but downright temperamental. Most of its parts are close to broken, so patience and a whole lot of finesse are essential. In particular, the glow plugs don’t work—the wires are corroded and frayed, so the engine block must be warmed to get the old truck going. Josh had explained it to me before, but I had never quite appreciated the weight of the problem.
Now, I did.
I tried the truck again. Nothing. Again and again. Nothing.
Patrick and I turned to each other, both of us paralyzed by our new troubling predicament. My son was cold and crying. I was in utter ruin over the loss of my ring and now, the truck’s engine was too cold to start.
I ran to the house, leaving my son wailing in his car seat, and called Josh, who, with the time difference was now most likely attending the funeral. There was no answer. I left a blubbering message about the truck, the ring, the stinging cold, our son. Everything was a mess. Why wasn’t he here? In that moment, as much as I yearned to quit, to stay home, to take my son back to bed, and to mourn the loss of my ring, I knew I wouldn’t be able to. I hung up the phone and raced back to the barn where my son was still crying and the truck still didn’t work.
Patrick was now sitting in the driver’s seat fiddling with the ignition. We tried to jumpstart the battery without success. I knew we couldn’t unpack the produce and quit for the day. We needed the income from market. I wondered whether I should call the neighbors to borrow a truck, but didn’t want to wake them at such an early hour. I even considered whether I could pack my Subaru wagon with tables, boxes, produce and carry it all to market, but that was an impossible idea.
I wanted to give up, but this was our second year in business and Josh and I were still inexperienced farmers, stumbling along while easing into the farming community. As a new farm, gaining customers was vital to our success, so we resolved that one of us had to always run the market and represent our farm. We also didn’t trust anyone to drive the old Ford because of its many eccentric problems. I had no choice that day—I had to get that truck to market. So, we plugged in and waited with a truck full of vegetables freezing in the early morning light.
It was nearly an hour before the truck was warm enough to start.
After a wild drive punctuated by a still crying baby, frequent nursing stops and several deliveries, we arrived a half hour before the market opened. We threw up the tents. The market manager lifted tables. The produce came flying out of boxes. Tablecloths, banner, bungie cords and scale—it all came to be in one chaotic and disorderly race. Seconds before the market bell rang, Patrick placed the last bunch of carrots. We tidied up, arranged the signs, and welcomed the first customer.
We sold all the vegetables and as I retold our frenzied story to a sympathetic market shopper, she replied, “Well, I don’t know if this will make you feel any better, but my daughter loves your carrots. We think they are the best. Thank you for growing them.”
While I was still preoccupied with the loss of the ring, I smiled. My heart warmed as I bagged her carrots and wished her a good day as she turned to walk into the cold market morning.
I never did find the ring. Since then, our farm has grown in many ways. We now produce vegetables on ten acres—an evolution of scale, work, and people in five years. We grow on four pieces of land scattered on the Applegate River in southwestern Oregon. Our fields are arranged into tight lines, a hundred varieties or more of vegetables, herbs and grains. Our crew has grown from one intern to several employees. We now own a proper delivery truck, which allows us to travel safely and on time to three farmers’ markets. As well, I no longer rise early for market with my son in tow. I meet my husband there.
Farming has become easier in some ways, more complex and difficult in others. The truth is we’ve almost quit many times. There are days when this sentiment is strong. On the farm and at the market, there is an intensity and abundance of emotions—loss, triumph and victory, stress, joy and fatigue. The ups-and-downs of these feelings can be overwhelming and all-encompassing. Too, the rewards can be hard to come by. There are times they come easily. Other times, they are just out of reach, more difficult to realize. But, I love it too. It just feels right and true to put my faith into building soil and boxing produce. There is hope wrapped into it—the farm is a tangible and real thing, something I can give my children. They will grow up on the farm and at the market, experiencing what it means to work hard and produce something of value with their own muscle and sweat.
And when the rewards do come—community who gathers to shop or praise us for the beautiful food we grow—I am filled with the deep pleasure that comes from simply feeding people. The friends I’ve made, the customers who shake my hand, the community I serve—it all helps me in overcoming the misadventures of farming and carry on with tenacity and a renewed spirit. Everything else—the truck that won’t start, the lost wedding ring, the glow plugs—all of it just fades away.
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