Friday, October 5, 2007

Gathering on the Farm

We had the enormous privilege this summer of eating food right off of a farm not far from Rick's parents in New England. Everything was fresher and more alive, more delicious, than food from any market can be; we made most of our meals during the trip from the farm's offerings. The farmer, Suzanne, sells very little of what she produces; she gives most everything away. Instead, she relies on the support of the community, which does seem to recognize what a gift she is giving. Not only do people donate to the farm, they help subsidize the work of several apprentices who live and work there, learning to care for the animals, to make cheese, to grow vegetables.

The day that Suzanne was baking 200 loaves of bread in her outdoor oven there was an unrelenting stream of visitors. They were alerted to baking day by a small sandwich board at the edge of the village green--and that was enough to bring out what seemed like the whole town. They stood expectantly, chatting, holding paper bags to receive the warm loaves as soon as they were allowed off of the cooling racks. The starter for these loaves came from Belgium, where Suzanne learned to bake in the traditional Flemish manner, with a long, slow fermentation--a true sourdough.

Once upon a time I baked for a living, but what I did was isolated, sheltered from those who would eventually consume what I made. What Suzanne is doing is so intimate--standing in her farmyard, surrounded by neighbors and friends, sharing tea and greetings. Every visit was like that--like going home to see family. We chose greens and and eggs and raspberries (those from S.'s mother's property) and homemade maple syrup off the farm stand. We drank fresh buttermilk with floating gobs of deep yellow butter, we met the (working) draft horse. Rick especially liked scratching the pregnant orchard pigs, causing them to swoon into their milk trough in ecstasy. Abby was fascinated by the chickens and the arrogant rooster. Sammy met a calf and fell in love. Mind you, this was not one of those farms set up with a quaint petting area for the kids. This is a working farm. It just happens to welcome the connection that comes with all of these folks looking for real milk, real bread, real tomatoes, Real Food.

These farms may be hidden, but they do exist. They exist all over this country. They are in real communities, not in nostalgic movies. Many of the farmers I have been hearing about recently did not grow up in farm families and have not inherited land. They have come to this because they believe in it and because it feeds them (I didn't intend the pun, but I will let it stand--it is true). It is absolutely a difficult path--one of hard physical work, few luxuries, little free time. I am among those who are deeply grateful that some dedicated people have chosen to do this work, despite the hardship. I may have been raised in the Big City, but this city girl recognizes that we are all richer for the the work that the Suzannes of the world are doing.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics