I thought I loved you before we even met. I was an eager new culinary student excited about the farm to fork movement…you were the farm that was going to teach me about growing food, making cheese, cooking from the garden and “animal husbandry” (which meant what?). Our love affair was only going to be a week long, but I knew it was going to be magical.
Then we met. And…well…you were a little stinky. And a bit unfinished. And it was hot. How many compost piles are there around here? What on earth is that big hairy dog eating? Can she see? We are butchering what tomorrow? We are all waking up at what time? Oh my. You were a real, working farm that had only done this “farm school” thing once before, and I was a city girl who was living in a glossy magazine-inspired farming fantasy. We were learning together. And I had no idea who I was falling in love with.
You got under my skin. That first week rocked me to my core. We worked in your gardens, milked your sweet goats, and gently learned from Rick and Lora Lea how to understand your message. We cooked and cleaned and built and composted and ate – oh, how we ate! We met your friends and neighbors and I never wanted to leave. Somehow the compost stopped smelling and the unfinished projects started looking like promises. There was SO much happening on such a little farm, and this was just the beginning…for both of us.
Your primary lessons were clear: pay attention to your food; be aware of the impact of your choices; understand the cycle and how the current food system is failing; first local/organic, then local, then organic. Your lingering messages snuck up on me: do what you love, every day; build a lifestyle, not a career; start small, work hard, dream wildly and watch the ripple.
I couldn’t stay away. I visited when I could, helped out for a few sessions the following summer, and then finally gave in and moved in with you for a season. I had the honor of seeing your farm school transform from a concrete slab with a Christmas light chandelier to an amazing gathering space with real bedrooms and a commercial kitchen. I learned that the work never stops and that your stewards are tireless (but do get tired). I ate a lot of pizza. I milked a lot of goats and became quite smitten with a few turkeys. I shelled countless beans and kneaded just as much dough. I met Kären and have admired her ever since. I tried to keep up with Rick and I aspired to be more like Lora Lea. I listened to Daisy Mae’s stories and ate the best cookies ever made. I cried a little and laughed a lot. I was home.
It has been quite some time now since we have seen each other. Marriage, baby, distance and a job have had a way of keeping us apart. But please know that you are a part of me, and that I think of you more than you know. I hope that my daughter will get to meet you and know the satisfaction of watching your sunsets after a hard day’s work. I look forward to sitting around your dining table again soon, sharing stories, reconnecting and refueling.
Thank you, old friend, for changing so many lives while quietly living your own. Oh…and sorry I called you stinky.