Week 14, 2020 | Kristin Kimball | Apr 3, 2020

We know how bad it is out there. We sense the threat to health and to the economy, and the general unbearable uncertainty. At this moment we are still outside of it, the small minority of people going about our work, which is the intense work of every spring, orchestrated not by state or federal guidelines but by the insistent sun. Nearly normal. Nearly. This morning, our 6am open-air team meeting began with a wind sprint to the end of the driveway, followed by the daily briefing on news of the virus. The farm has always felt like an island in spring, an isolated group of people living in a sea of work. But now, we’ve become what farmers call a closed herd. Nobody new comes in without quarantine. Tonight, team dinner might actually happen, but outside, no guests, and with six feet between us. We are relying on one another to take every precaution to keep our whole team healthy, to keep food rolling out to our members, both here in Essex and, vitally, in New York City. (We have excellent safety protocols in place for our delivery to the hard-hit city, and can take 20 more households now, and more after the growing season gets rolling, so please help spread the word.) Happily, Barbara is out of quarantine, healthy, after returning early from Switzerland. It was heartening to see her in the greenhouse yesterday, hand weeding the greens and potting up the rosemary plants.

It has been two weeks now since Mark was missing for twelve hours on his windsurfer, in terrible weather and deadly cold water. I have not been able to write or even think about It yet, but I’m getting closer. Soon, when we really need a distraction from the current situation – a crisis narrative with a beginning, middle and end, rather than the endless real-life middle we are stuck in now – I’ll write it for you. This week, he was up to his usual April Fool’s Day mischief with a cohort of mischief makers. Someone tried to move every vehicle on the farm – tractors, trucks, cars – to a remote spot on Blockhouse Road, which set off a series of double crossings, and triple crossings, and red herrings. At home, the girls joined forces to pull pranks on me, putting soap in my toothpaste and a baggie of water in my bed. In other words, nearly normal.

In the field, we are hoping for sun, wind, and heat. The garlic is pushing out of the ground, peeking through the mulch. The straw has been raked from the strawberry plants now. Deer got the overwintered spinach, then the hunters got the deer. Soon as the soil dries out, transplanting will begin. The greenhouses are full, and construction of the new greenhouse is underway, with excavation happening now. The dairy heifers will go to pasture next week and other groups will follow as the grass comes on. Sheep shearing has been rescheduled for next week, but Mary, our shearer, will work solo, no help or volunteers. I am looking forward to seeing the ewes without their wool, and then to lambing, beginning the first week in May.

Thanks to our local members for adhering to our new distribution guidelines. Remember, send just one representative from your household to pick up your share at your designated time slot, no kids. Have a game plan to collect your food, and wash hands immediately before. Return your glass clean and sanitized. Please pay your invoices on time. If you or someone in your house is sick, don’t come to the farm, we’ll pack and deliver for you. Likewise, if you are in a vulnerable demographic, we can pack for you. Send those requests by e-mail. People interested in membership should also e-mail the farm. The Farm Store is open and restocked daily for anyone to shop in, but no visitors in the office or on the rest of the farm.

We are happy to have some new farmers here who arrived just before the world shut down. Jackie came to visit, planning to return in a few weeks to her now non-existent farm-to-table catering job. Since she can’t do that, we’re very happy she’s with us. Charlie’s brother Nathan, who is a chef, was in much the same boat, and has now joined the animal chore team, and is working on value added products for us. Freddie and Caitlin have been with us for a while now, but also came from the now-disrupted restaurant world. Freddie is rocking the butcher shop here these days, and Caitlin has taken a strong leadership role all over the farm, most visibly at the front, where she’s implemented our new pandemic guidelines, and taught us the restaurant adage, if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean. I ought not single people out because in truth everyone deserves recognition these days, and our NYC delivery team is a bunch of heroes. Thanks to everyone for their good work in difficult times.

That’s the news from Essex Farm for this cold wet 14th week of 2020. Best not to leave a message on the office answering machine these days, as it is not being closely monitored. Instead, e-mail us at essexfarm@gmail.com. You can find us on Instagram at kristinxkimball, essexfarmcsa, and farmerkimball, on the web at essexfarmcsa, or you can wave to us from a distance on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball