An Enduring Crop

Balkan beans return to their native soil.

Wendy Johnson

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I remember that late spring morning about seven years ago, working in the lower fields of Green Gulch Farm, harvesting rainbow chard for our local food bank with a group of elementary school students from San Francisco. The kids were fanned out in a rainbow arc themselves, spanning the field, chattering as they harvested crates of greens. One child, a pale and strangely mute boy of about ten, wandered away from his classmates to stand alone at the edge of the field, where farm irrigation sprinklers were watering the next line of crops. The May morning was warm, without a breath of wind. I watched as the child took his place in the back-mist of the irrigation jets, holding his thin, white hands out to the soft hiss of water. “He’s a new boy,” the classroom teacher whispered, following my gaze. “From Bosnia. He never says a word.”

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