Miya Upshur-Williams harvests oyster mushrooms in the Good Sense Greenhouse as part of general maintenance. Photo by Tanya Upshur.
I’m a harvester. In the day time, I work on a local farm that receives volunteers typically from the the corporate or administrative world. While I’m squatting in 80 degree weather with a humidity level over 60% to hand pick strawberries there is always at least one volunteer tells me that ‘I must like my job’, ‘how lucky I am to get to work outside’ or that ‘farm work must be so peaceful’. There’s this part of me that wants to nonchalantly tell them to shut up, shrug my shoulders and keep it moving. Instead, I smile and tell them that farming is respectable work. It’s my job and like most jobs, there are good days and not so good days. (On my best days, I do not like harvesting strawberries. So far okra is my favorite.)
I get it. Many of us romanticize farming. Hell, before I spoke to a farmer and actually started farming, I was romanticizing farming. (I blame it on my urban upbringing.) But still, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to give somebody a good tongue lashing the moment they tell me how I must be feeling about my work. Seriously, where do we get these assumptions? What are we implying when we assume such things? And what gives us the idea that it’s okay to just share them? This post does not explore these questions. In fact, what you are about to read won’t dispel the belief that because one does farm work they must like their job. Instead, I’m going to tell you how I feel about harvesting mushrooms.
In addition to the day job, I intern at Good Sense Farm. After five months, I finally got to witness (and partake in) the mushroom cultivation process from start to finish. The verdict is in.
I love harvesting mushrooms.
Mushroom harvesting is such an extremely tactile experience. It makes you slow down, breathe and feel. The fruit’s flesh is springy and just a little spongy. The mushroom’s cap is delicate and at the edges can tear like the thinnest paper. I often close my eyes or stare out into space as I work my hands down at the base of mushroom so I can neatly twist it away from the colonized substrate without damaging too much of the mycelium beneath. That part always reminds me of chicken gristle, except you can’t treat it like it is. I am very careful. (More careful than when I harvest blackberries and you have to be extremely careful with those.) I am satisfied when I see an unscathed mushroom in my gloved hand and a small nick in the place I harvested from. I give the mushroom a shake so that any pests will fall from its gills. There something delightful about seeing the small bugs tumble from the folds, stunned and panicked before they recover. I put the fruit in a plastic bag and move to the next cluster or the next brick or the next shelf. When I am done, I cannot help but to feel two ways: extremely competent and elegant.
Romantic, isn’t it?
Miya Upshur-Williams is black, queer, pro-mama, pro-choice, pro-youth, pro-elders. She is a writer, earring-maker and doula growing her practice in her hometown Washington, DC. She likes cacti and art by Carrie Mae Weems and is excited to be interning at Good Sense Farm & Apiary.
I really enjoyed reading this. the author’s cadence and imagery make me feel as if i’m there, harvesting mushrooms right next to her.
the conversational tone of the first couple of paragraphs did a excellent job at putting me at ease, lulling me into a place where I was capable of immersing myself into the author’s mushroom harvesting experience.
also am in appreciation of her checking people who romanticize farming (i will be sure NOT to do that in future interactions with farmers).
The Ferguson City Council convened for the first time since Mike Brown’s death, and proved that they literally give no fucks about what the community has to say. Added to their vague, paltry proposed reforms, seems real change will have to come in Ferguson via the ballot box. I don’t care where you live folks— let this be a lesson in voting/participating in your local elections and government! #staywoke #farfromover
My people getting it!
these people are the real heroes. not the military, not politicians, not the Hollywood actors. they risked their lives and livelihoods to challenge white supremacy and institutionalized racism.
the word ‘choice’ here disturbs me.
rather than offering an analysis of the structures that deny people access to foods that would rejuvenate their bodies,by implying that people simply ‘choose’ to eat toxic foodstuffs, the argument for healthier life practices becomes a solely individualistic endeavor, leaving forces outside human willpower free of accountability to people who depend on toxic foodstuffs for survival.
rivers of salt threaten to deluge from my eyes
and my head has become a dark, dark
but i’ve never felt so free before.
my scars don’t scare me now,
this unrelenting stream of questions
have lost their crushing weight.
my lungs allow air in.
i can breathe.