It's pretty amazing to know that there are people who dedicate their lives to growing food and bringing that food to the public. On a daily basis, I make efforts to deepen my relationship with the food I consume, and to draw closer the people who provide it for me.
In that vein a couple months ago, I decided to jump in and participate in the work that goes in to growing food for a stand, one at our local farmers market. The experience was wonderful, as you might guess, and also quite humbling.
In my new home, luck has it that I only have to travel an hour in any direction to find great farmers. Our local market is just eight minutes away and rivals my trusty greenmarket back in NYC. On our first trip - the first stand I decided to stop at - I spotted Heron Hollow Farm. I was initially drawn to the gorgeous fruits and veggies, and then to Will, his wonderful wife Liz, and their sweet babe Ava, whose gaze is the intense stare of an old soul.
Each week their stand presents a colorful bounty in-line with the season. We have found (and hungrily taken home): neat piles of heirloom tomatoes; firm, bright, tiny turnips; every color pepper imaginable; bundles of wild greens; potatoes with great names (and even better flavor); firm, dark blueberries; perfectly ripe okra; foraged chanterelles; pastured eggs; and both goat and cow dairy products.
Throughout the years I have learned what great versions of this-or-that vegetable or fruit look like, feel like, and smell like, resulting in some damn good eating. When I honor eating with the season and locate food that is only lightly traveled, I am rewarded with peak ripeness provided by someone who nurtured that food him or herself.
Supermarkets actually rob us of this choice in selling us a wide variety of fruit and veg year-round. Groceries showcase uniformity rather than the uniqueness nature creates, dumbing down our access to the kinds of a carrot or a tomato, etc., we can even be exposed to. The stuff masquerading as real fruits and vegetables in supermarkets is almost completely machined - picked pre-ripened and necessarily flushed with gasses to achieve their rosy hues; shipped hundreds if not thousands of miles and losing flavor and nutrition as a result; and handled by people who themselves are kept on a threadbare existence.
When we buy at supermarkets we vote to sustain the infrastructure that bolsters Industrial Agriculture, including environmental costs like chemical waste in our waterways and burning fossil fuels into our atmosphere. Is that what we want for our future, or even now?
Heron Hollow and countless other small, local farms like it empower us by showing us that heirloom fruits and vegetables can be grown without industrial pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers. What started out as a college hobby, and what brought Will and Liz together, has evolved into a holistic approach that would make Joel Salatin proud: animals live happily in their natural ways, work is done largely by hand, and they use tried-and-true methods like compost and permaculture to grow healthy, amazing food. To nourish yourself and your family with the food a small farmer toils over day-after-day is about as elemental as it gets.
Each week, they do the bulk of the work pulling the (literal) fruits of their labor from the earth. For all my years in New York's aggressive hustle, I was set to task in keeping up with their schedule. Will quipped, "we're *reasonable* farmers" when we asked if they start before sun-up....So we toiled from 6 a.m. on, from one chore to the next, and it was a race against the sun bearing down on us all.
Thank you Will, Liz, Ava Rose, Denise, and Brian for sharing of yourselves. You are helping others to grow their appreciation of what it means to grow food.
|"Ma mere" with Ava, as mama carries food scraps to the pigs|
|During the hottest hours, we retreated to the "swimming hole," a falls-fed flowing stream|
I hope by now you have fallen in love with this pastoral view.
At sundown, the eleven-hour day only represented the beginning. After everyone gathered for a gratifying dinner of herbed goat's cheese, homemade bread, fresh sliced tomatoes, home-smoked bacon, and a veggie stew, the next tasks were to sort and wash the day's take, and complete the evening milking and feedings. This was work carried on into the latest hours of the night, followed by just a few hours of sleep before driving it all to market. And let's not forget: week in and out Will and Liz and farmers just like them oblige many a curious (if not demanding) market patron, with cheer, smiles, and patience, on just the vapors of sleep..... pretty awesome indeed.
We love being reminded of the care put into each tomato sitting on our counter at home. Each morsel is enriched by the relationships we have - and continue to - cultivate. Please support small, local, family farms. You'll eat worlds better and have the satisfaction of knowing that you are directly supporting members of your community. If you want to learn more, here, here, and here are good places to further your own understanding. Share this story with friends, and say "hi" to the folks providing us all with good food.