Do you think of farmers as artists or poets?
It is hard to romanticize the hard work, the global market forces, the brute destruction of weather events, and many of the challenges and uncertainties of farming. And we know that a few “farmers” are primarily in business to “farm” subsidies and programs. Still, the lives of the few among us who feed and clothe the rest are not understood by most. We rely on their labors and their willingness to accept the risks.
But are there also some lyrical aspects to farming? What if their product is described as ‘bottled poetry’? What portion of their endeavor is artistic?
Farmland dedicated to growing wine grapes is expanding, at least in some wealthy countries. When a society can afford this luxury, people savor it as an important creation. Farmers and their workers exhibit artistry in their pruning and training of the vines, in their choice of cover crops, and in other aspects of vineyard management. And each winemaker has creative control over the final product.
Wine is common in many cultures. In the U.S.A., California has a reputation for premium wine production. And in particular Napa Valley is known worldwide, although it is also surrounded by valleys and hillsides with great soils, good weather, and talented farmers and vitners.
Napa Valley is a beautiful place. In the spring it is filled with bright yellow mustard blossoms. And in the early summer the vines take over and blanket the valley floor and the hills with lush green foliage. Under those big leaves, hidden at first, juice is being stored in the fruit. In the heat of summer the fruit and juice mature and develop character.
The wineries provide a pleasant place for tourism and picnicking. Perhaps their poetry is not quite as dear as the price on the bottle. But there is no denying the artistic beauty of the valley or the artistic quality of their creative outputs.
This photograph was taken in the northern end of Napa Valley on a warm afternoon in early summer. I was born two or three miles from this location and grew up in the town of Napa. These forested hillsides were the first scenes that I saw as an infant. The valley has changed dramatically. In my youth there were extensive prune orchards. Farming income and lifestyle were much humbler. Those former orchards are now vineyards. I think it would be harder to describe the artistic aspects of picking up plums off of the ground and piling them in wooden field boxes to be taken to the drier.
On a hot afternoon these vines are hard at work making juice. The air is filled with the scent of nearby conifers and the sounds of forest birds. It is summer in the quiet northern end of Napa Valley.