My sister Sam is twenty one, just graduated from college and very interested in organic farming. A friend of hers from school mentioned a woman that has a small organic farm in Cummaquid just a short drive up the Cape. Sam did a bit of research and learned that the woman runs a farm stand right on Route 6A so we decided to check it out.
We were hoping to meet Jean Iversen. The owner and sole operator of Kelly Farm. Jean is in her late eighties and has been running the farm and farm stand for over forty years.
We found the farm stand empty, not open for the season yet. Sam remembered an article she read giving vague directions to the actual farm. It mentioned a driveway marked by a small white sign with a number on it. We decided to try to drive around a bit in hopes that we might stumble upon it and soon we spotted the driveway and the sign. We pulled down a short dirt path and there in front of us was Jean.
I don't think either of us was prepared for this truly incredible meeting. Jean is about five feet tall and cannot possible weigh more than eighty pounds. She has chin length white hair pinned back on the side with a barrette and a fisherman's hat to block the sun. An oversized, worn sweatshirt, old jeans and work boots drape her tiny frame. Her soil stained hands are wrapped around the handle of a large garden cart with eight to ten tomato plants placed inside.
Sam and I quickly got out of the car to introduce ourselves. Jean seemed a bit confused but quickly welcomed us. She has sparkling blue eyes and a warm smile. She is open and friendly, telling us that she is on her way to deliver the plants to neighbors but has plenty of time to treat us to a brief tour of her garden.
Jean farms about an acre of land. She starts seeds in March by her wood burning stove and then plants them outdoors when the whether permits. She pointed out rows of kale, chard and collards; tomatoes, italian peppers, garlic, onions, strawberries and blueberries. All in all a grand mix of organic produce that, in the peak of the season, will supply her stand and provide many lucky customers with great eats.
Touring through the rows, Sam and I marveled at this older woman's agility and grace. Every step was deliberate and measured. She pointed out each crop and gave us small glimpses of her endless knowledge of the garden and its bounty. The job of starting, planting, weeding, watering and harvesting is intense and Sam and I cannot imagine how this tiny woman, eighty something years young can possibly do it all. We are inspired.
As we finish our tour we ask Jean if she'd like help delivering those tomato plants. It's the least we could do after interrupting her day. She agrees to a ride and the three of us set out up and down the road to drop off the plants.
Back at the farm, we said our goodbyes and backed out of the driveway as Jean began to kneel in her garden. It's early evening and there is still a lot of work to be done.