Thoughtful Food

Farming Flow by Leda
September 12, 2010, 9:55 am
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Being involved in various sports since I was young, I tend to view life through sports analogies. Farming is no different. Today, I realized the feeling that I get often when I farm has a good analogy in sports lingo. There is rarely a day that goes by at the farm that I am not overtaken by “farming flow.”

Being in “flow” is most often used in the context of athletics to describe an experience in which the athlete feels confident, in control, and is completely immersed in the action taking place. The term “flow” is credited to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who penned the 1990 book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as the joyous experience of living in the moment and acting without effort (

I have experienced flow sometimes while playing basketball. During these times, every pass feels crisp, every shot feels like it is going in, I feel completely in control of the game and my contributions. It is truly an incredible experience.

Let me give you an example of farming flow. I am kneeling amid rows of tomato plants, the goal: harvest 4 flats of red slicing tomatoes. I begin at the end of the row and scan the block of tomato plants to my right, a little flicker of red catches my eye, so I snake my hand out and grab a ripe tomato and place it in the box in front of me. The next tomato I see is rotten on one side, I throw it to the side. The next five tomatoes, all good, all in the box, I look more closely at the area I am in for any last glimmer of red. Two half-ripe tomatoes stare at me, taunting me to pick them. I resist and move my gaze to the next block of green vines. I hear a noise and am startled out of my focus.

I stand up and hear Andrew yelling my name. I call back and he informs me that he has been trying to get my attention for the last 5 minutes. Apparently, in my state of concentration, I have blocked out all his attempts at communication.

A further component of “flow” involves losing track of time due to an intense focus on immediate events. I often have this experience while running. I will start off a run and maybe feel a little stiff and my steps will be choppy and forced.  Usually, though, within 5 or 10 minutes my body warms up and I begin to enjoy the rhythm of my strides and breathing. The next 20-40 minutes pass quickly as I relax into my pace and just watch the scenery come and go. Being in flow while running is incredibly enjoyable. Each step is not so deliberate and somehow the efficiency of movement overtakes any other thoughts about past or future.

Being in a flow state during farming, means that time on the farm often passes quickly. Just like running, if I can coax myself through the first part of the day and really delve into the task at hand, I find that I can often become entrenched in the moment. Before I know it, the sun is starting to warm up the day and  a few hours have passed by while I was busy cutting and bunching basil.

The worlds of farming and athletics definitely have their differences. But, for me, these are the environments in which I currently seem to thrive and find myself in states of flow the most. Where do you find flow in your life?

-Farmer Leda