Seed catalogs are one of the pleasures of evenings this time of year.  The Fedco catalog is one of the best.

This year it features poems from Russell Libby.

I like this one.

“If you’re going to farm a piece of land, you ought to farm it for all it’s worth.”
Tim Hassinger, vice-president, Dow AgriSciences

For how many bluebirds it’s worth?
For how many monarchs?
What price the elusive fireflies?

I pulled the peas today,
tossing the vines in the compost bin,
then carried the sack of Tartary Buckwheat from the barn,
seed grown by Liz and Chris on their farm,
and sowed it the same way
farmers have sowed since the beginning,
palm up,
fingers pointing in the direction the seeds are thrown.

And what is that worth?
To hear the seeds meeting the ground,
to look up and see the clouds
that will bring rain tonight or tomorrow,
and know next week the ground will be covered
with pale green,triangle-shaped leaves,
six weeks before the white flowers will carry bees.

15 comments on “Worth

  1. shoreacres says:

    The poem’s lovely in itself, and filled with a truth as delicate as those green, triangle-shaped leaves – worth, value and price are not necessarily the same thing.

    Not only that, the very phrase used by Mr. Hassinger – “for all it’s worth” – implies the kind of farming that would leave the land limp and exhausted. The farmer, too, possibly.

    It’s quite something, really, to find a poem from a seed catalog that’s better on every level than any poem from my latest issue of The New Yorker magazine. 😉


    • Bill says:

      Well said. It’s a powerful poem. I love how it speaks to the demand to farm “a piece of land…for all it’s worth.” Wondering this morning about the difference between “for all it’s worth” and “for all its worth.”


      • df says:

        Thanks for sharing this, I’d never seen this poem before, and it’s quite amazing. I had the same thought about ‘it’s worth’ and ‘its worth’.


  2. DM says:

    As someone just awakening to the joy of poetry, I too enjoyed that poem. It is very “accessible” to this red neck farm boy 😉 DM


  3. beeholdn says:

    Thanks, Bill, this is beautiful.


  4. Bill, a poem is a great way to start the day, don’t you think? Poems are a unique way to communicate. Each reader has a different understanding of the verses. My interpretation of the phrase “for all its worth” would be to help the land produce all it can by improving the soil qualities. That would mean to put back more nutrients in the soil than were taken by crop production. “For all its worth” should increase every year.

    Have a great “for all its worth” day.


    • Bill says:

      Yep, that would be nurturing the land. Giving back at least as much as you take out. Living in harmony with it, for the mutual benefit of both. That’s what the buckwheat cover crop helps do. But I don’t think that’s what Mr. Hassinger has in mind. For all it’s worth, to the industrial mind, means for all the money you can extract from it. His company will sell you the chemicals needed to make the soil “productive.” He would scoff at the buckwheat no doubt. What’s that worth if all you do is till it back into the soil after it blooms and the bees have eaten? What’s it worth to him if the seeds come from a neighbor’s farm, rather than from a multi-national corporation?


  5. “If you’re going to farm a piece of land, you ought to farm it for all it’s worth.”

    The VP is referencing (knowingly or unknowingly) the phrase “to milk it for all it’s worth,” which in turn derives from “to milk” something. Either way, the connotations are exploitative, deceitful, dishonest, greed-based, etc–something Dow AgriScience folks know all about.

    I visited in September the memorial that is being built in honor of Russell Libby on the grounds of MOFGA’s Common Ground Fair in Unity, ME. Many other people were visiting it, too.

    Really like the poem. And Fedco’s catalog, too.


  6. Rosa Mayland says:

    A lovely poem!




  7. EllaDee says:

    I guess worth is dependent on what you value. Coming from Mr Hassinger’s DOW mindset his words have the feel of a sound byte. Trite. The same words by someone with holistic values are transmuted into poetry.


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