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"Dirt, light, and water" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, March 2010

Here up on the hill, at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, I've woken up to snow a handful of days this past week or so. Granted, it's not much, and melts almost as quickly as it falls – Jack Frost, after all, is playing quite the round of hide-and-seek this year. Nevertheless, it is still winter outside.

Inside, however, the excitement of spring has arrived. First it was some dirt under my nails, the aftermath of sifting compost stored from the fall. Then it was a series of sneezes as I shook the dust and dirt from pots and plastic flats. There was the clearing of shelves, the choosing of seeds, the creation of a logbook from a crumpled, water-stained notebook.

And then: planting.

Kale, spinach, chard, arugula, lettuce mix – the process of choosing how much and which varieties was tantalizing and arduous in its possibilities. Here at D Acres we save our own seed when we can, buy seed when we need to. When it came down to it, I had dozens of options before me. Originally thinking of seeding ten flats, I ended up with twelve…and they only exhibit a fraction of the possibilities. Luckily the process will be repeated again and again as the weeks unfold.

Let me say that I've been doing this since I was a child, and yet the act of pushing seeds into dirt fills me with a giddy anticipation, a wordless amazement that this process actually works. Will these seeds really grow into an abundant larder? Sea kale, chard, New Zealand spinach…these varieties are easy to grasp, literally, and somehow in their tangible size seem more likely to thrive. But kale seeds? Lettuce? And never mind arugula. These are so small, their minute-ness is overwhelming and yet their potential is inversely grandiose. Calloused, dirty hands must claim delicacy and dexterity for planting these.

It is these little seeds that are the receptacles of a gardener's devotion and trust. Some dirt, some light, some water; throw in some care and attention, and these tiny, green, photosynthesizing stalks of life can thrive. Sure, we witness the aftermath of life's vivacity all around us, but there is something both daunting and gleeful in bearing witness to the process so intimately, hanging hope and faith – and satiation - on the potential of a minute seed.

The remarkable thing, too, is that anyone can do this. You can do this. Growing food is not the imposing venture it is too often depicted as. Seeds want to grow, life wants to continue; as a gardener you're just fostering the process along, guiding it in a complementary direction. Give it a try. We're here to help. (Yes, really, I mean it: give us a ring 603-786-2366 or info@dacres.org)

And all the eloquence aside, people need to eat. And eat well. Food is essential, and relying on California, New Zealand, and the like disconnects us from the history and the narrative of our own wellbeing. Growing kale keeps me healthy, and not just for its freshness and nutrition. Perhaps it is also true that the process of planting, weeding, harvesting, cooking, and preserving any home grown vegetable is a process that continually reinvigorates my sense of aliveness. Amazing, isn't it, that all that can be bundled into one seed?

Beth Weick is a resident of D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, a non-profit service organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 as an intern, and now focuses her work on gardening, tending to the animals, and writing. Learn more about the programs at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org.

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