Small victories

In ten years of growing food, this is by far the most challenging season we’ve ever experienced. Between punishing hail, voracious deer, late snows, devastating winds, crafty rodents and ten million grasshoppers (I’m certain the locusts are on their way), we feel we’ve taken everything the world can throw at new farmers. We might be down, we might be bruised, but we’re not out yet. And in that spirit, how about we count up some wins?

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Thanks, sunflowers, for cheering us on with your bright faces.

Our farm is awash in sunflowers right now, not one of which we planted. They weren’t here last year when we moved in (historic drought?), but we’re so glad to see them this year. Hopefully they’ll continue to self-seed and their cheerful countenances will be part of every summer here.

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Kolkata flower market

Early on the morning of our first full day in India, we took a tuk-tuk to Kolkata’s wholesale flower market, near the city’s famed Howrah Bridge. What a bold introduction to the country! Flowers arrive around sunrise each day and are sold by the kilo to retailers who then resell the blossoms for weddings, temple visits and puja ceremonies.

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Kolkata’s flower market as seen from Howrah Bridge.

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Making a delivery.

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Many of the market’s vendors also live in their stands. 

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A rare female vendor selling fresh greens for cooking.

The market is almost exclusively male; we saw very few women. As in most parts of India we’ve traveled – except in the larger cities – women remain largely behind the scenes, caring for the home and the children.

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Let the haggling begin.

Marigolds are the primary flower sold at the market. The Portuguese introduced marigolds to India in the 1600s, and they’re now ubiquitous at all sort of ceremonies. Their rich shades of saffron and gold dominate the scene.

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Stringing a marigold garland.

Marigolds now bear enormous cultural significance here; the blossoms are threaded onto string and used as temple adornments and offerings. They’re also made into necklaces and given as gifts to welcome honored visitors, similar to Hawaiian lei tradition.

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The white garlands are made of jasmine flowers, and they smell absolutely amazing.

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Immense quantities of flowers are sold every single day; the market operates around the clock.

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Women negotiating prices with the seller.

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Loose blossoms are sold by the kilo.

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Unsurprisingly, a market like this generates a lot of waste.

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Marigold blossoms are used in offerings like these aartis, which are set alight and floated on the Ganges.

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The streets of India are filled with small altars; shops selling flower offerings are always nearby.

Like everything else in India, the market was loud, hot, chaotic and messy…but completely worth a visit!