Will Work for Food

Well, something must have given. Definitely the world has, once more, given , because yesterday I agreed to a farm internship at Baia Niccia, a 7-acre organic farm in the Sunol Water Temple, east of Fremont. It’s beautiful there, of course. On the first day, after a brief handshake, I’m presented with two huge bags of fresh, sweet and spicy mizuna and Japanese mustard. I’m sold. I’m in. 

We pass the temple gate, then the farm gate. I parked in the mud, next to the greenhouse. A chicken coop behind. Two people were sitting at a table nearby, poking their fingers into flats of soil to  transplant seedlings.  

Fred, the owner of the farm, shows me around, walking quickly, talking mildly, with two retired racing greyhounds loping around us. We walk the rows, check the irrigation. This row is planted with rosemary and mint, another with romaines, their leaves dotted with cranberry red. We munch on a leaf of a mild variety of mustard, crunchy and sweet.

 One section of the field sleeps under a cover of bell beans and “I don’t know what that is,” Fred remarked. He will plant squash here next winter. Another dormant field will be tomatoes, his specialty. We talk about nitrogen fixing, water starving tomatoes, the predelictions of greyhounds. He points out the warmer section of the field, where winter greens couldn’t be grown, and the area that centipedes have made their own. Fred will plant potatoes, later, to lure them into one section of the garden and clear them out. “Centipedes love potatoes,” he says.

The chickens squawk expressively, distracting me from the conversation. Fred was originally a breeder, and worked at a nursery.  He found this parcel of land through Farmlink, and it’s a rich piece of land, bordered by creeks on two sides. The dry hills, dotted with oak, are close. They haven’t made it to greenness this year. Bug, the dog, makes love to me with her eyes as I stroke her back. The two interns stop their transplanting to fiddle with the irrigation,  repairing holes the chickens have made with electrical tape.  Then they weed the chicories. “But no harvesting today,” Fred says. “It’s too wet.” 

It feels good here. At home, I eat my Japanese mustard greens, raw, delicious, right out of the bag. I suppose I could make soup with them, but most likely, I’ll munch on them leisurely, throughout the week.  I’m coming back next Saturday.



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