Betsey’s pride and joy at Ryder Farm are her tomatoes.
They have been growing in the greenhouse since April, and yesterday they were ready to come out to “harden off” before being planted in the field. Around 2pm, Bestey, Rich, Travis, and I had formed an assembly line, passing tomato plants out of the greenhouse and onto Betsey’s tractor cart.
With around 100 flats of 20 plants each, the project would take several tractor rides back and forth from the front greenhouse to a large tarp laid out behind the far greenhouse, about 100 yards away. We had just unloaded the first batch when Betsey got called away for work. Wanting this job finished today, she looked at Travis and said, “Do you want to try the tractor?” Travis forced (I could tell) a nonchalant nod and swagger to the tractor’s metal seat.
Learning to drive the tractor had been a prospect since we came to Ryder Farm, and now Travis was about to get a first, rapid lesson. The tractor was a stick shift, and the controls were unwieldy, but I knew Travis is such a fast learner that he wouldn’t have a problem.
It took him a few tries to get it going once Betsey left, but by the end of the afternoon, he was handling the tractor with apparent ease. As I watched him maneuver the tractor back and forth around Bestey’s gardens, I felt pride swell inside me. I reflected on that feeling a minute. Was it just the large grin on Travis’ face that made me happy to see him driving? Or was it something more?
To me, watching Travis drive a tractor was an exciting moment because in it I could imagine doing this with Travis on our own. Our own gardens and our own tractor. It signified that Travis was improving in his techniques and abilities, and that he had learned another skill would allow him to farm independently in the future.
I realized I was glad for that. But I’m not sure yet if it’s because I categorically want to keep farming after this growing season is over, or merely because Travis and I both have a stubborn determination to be good at whatever we do. Either way, after a month Travis and I are feeling more comfortable and capable with farm work, and our private musings about farming for ourselves one day are full and vivid.