Spirit Matters by Shirley Barr – Farming Isn’t Easy! Picking Green Beans on a hot August Afternoon

CFN – Last Saturday I went to Hoople Creek Farm, owned by Jamie and Stacey Creskey to do some volunteer work. This organic farm is situated just outside of Ingleside. I am a member of the Creskey’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which means that I am supporting their organic farm by making a financial investment with the return of getting fresh vegetables throughout the growing season. Since it’s been a dream of mine to reconnect with the land and become a farmer, I have also been doing some volunteer work on the farm for the last couple of months.

Jamie asked me to describe the experience that I had last week when the temperature soared to a roasting 35 degrees Celsius. He had dropped me off in the back field to pick the row of green beans. He said he didn’t think there were too many. I was wearing a hat, sunglasses, and a sleeveless top and shorts with shoes. At first it seemed like it was going to be fairly easy as the beans were within easy reach and not too many were hanging off the plants. As I developed a certain rhythm it became evident that the beans were multiplying before my eyes, hanging in clumps like long green witch fingers beckoning me to grasp them. I got a grip on myself,
thinking that my imagination was running away with me because of the heat! I came across a structure clinging to a bean leaf: it was a chrysalis, probably of a common butterfly, glowing with a mint green shine with a golden line right through the middle that had little black dots at regular intervals. I spent some time admiring it as I picked, thinking about the connection between the plants and the creatures that live on and near them.

Butterflies floated by me, and the air was so hot that it was like the deep South. Jamie had mentioned that the air current was coming from Georgia. This got me thinking about how the slaves picked cotton on the plantations during this kind of heat, I wondered how on earth they could have done it. It seemed completely impossible for any human being to endure this temperature without losing their mind from heat sickness, their brains cooking down to a viscous syrup in their skulls.


Of course, slaves were kept at work by slave drivers who threatened them with violence. I, on the other hand, was doing this by choice. It dawned on me that there had to be something wrong with this choice. My legs were being scratched by the weeds; I was crouching over; my back groaned from the constant bending; I fought the impulse to take off to my air-conditioned life. My body kept trying to hide under the shade provided by the bean leaves until I was lying on the ground. My ego took charge – how could I give up so easily?

My bucket, by this time, was about half full. I recalled how Jamie had encouraged me to do this by asking me to channel my inner Mexican. I mustered up all my pride and imagination and decided that no row of beans was going to get the better of me. As the sun beat down on the top of my head and I lurched down the row with visions of Mexicans dancing through my mind, picking beans that magically multiplied, the full measure of what food is all about slowly came into focus. The whole process is a miracle of the most extraordinary dimensions.


How can a little speck of a seed be put in soil and become a plant that creates a bean that we can consume? We may have managed to understand the scientific principles behind plant growth but the whole process is mysterious and mystic in so many ways. The next time I sit before a plate of steaming green beans and proceed to butter and salt them I will take the time to be grateful for that link to creation and for the hands of those who picked them as devoted, conscious souls who humbly tend to our need for nourishment. Please take the time today to thank your local farmer and their workers, these people are of such great service to humanity.

By the way, it seems that I picked a bushel of beans before stumbling back to the farmhouse and civilization. It seems there is a speck of inner Mexican in me somewhere and that gives me a sense of satisfaction.

Shirley Barr is a member of the Baha’i community and lives and works in Cornwall, Ontario. She can be reached by email at: spiritmatters9@gmail.com

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  1. Wonderful article Shirley…you made me chuckle and gave me a better appreciation of the food on my table each day. Thank you.

  2. this is a tribute song in honour of the Mexican reference to accompany this article- a big thank you to my dear friends Byron Hamel and Justin Burnett of Ticklish Brother for their talented efforts:

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