A Note From Our Farmer aka Back to the Roots
Like many over the past weeks, my mind and soul have been swirling, confused and not sure what to make of all the developments - this is not about that, so I'll leave it at that. This past week I was stopped in my tracks, similar to my last post, by an unexpected source & felt pulled back not only to my own roots but also contemplating the intersection of work, family and one's own peace and contentment in these noisy, trying times.
We just received our last CSA box (Community Supported Agriculture- for those not familiar, more info here - ours is from Greenheart Family Farms, they rock) for the year and Farmer Paul always includes a note: What's in the box, a recipe or two and a short narrative of what's going on at the farm. We receive our box every two weeks & its always a push to get through everything before the next box arrives, we love the pressure to eat lots of fresh, local, organic veggies & our chickens love the scraps.
After a few years of the routine with Greenheart, this week's note (last of the season) struck a chord with me - already reflective after turning 50 this year, the holidays, everything else going on - it brought me back to what is important & my own roots. Below I will include a few outtakes from the letter but it reminded me of a few things in my not-so-distant and distant past...
For those of you who haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and check out The Real Dirt on Farmer John while hopefully you get some downtime in the coming weeks - seeing it just over 10 years ago sparked & inspired me to get some thoughtful, incredible folks together in Charleston, SC where I was living at the time. The result was the creation of an incredible organization, Lowcountry Local First (LLF), which will celebrate its 10th Anniversary in 2017.
LLF was founded to represent, advocate and connect local farms, farmers and businesses in the Lowcountry/coastal region of South Carolina. The results have been incredible and proof that communities in the U.S. need a greater balance of local, independent business and farm ownership which increase community wealth, jobs and create more grounding in a sense of place - more info on local economies here.
The other thing Farmer Paul's letter sparked for me was the time spent on my grandparent's farm outside the booming metropolis of Dowagiac, MI (pronounced doh-wah-gee-ack & so obscure not even in the spell checkers!). Coming from Hungary, they landed on Ellis Island in the early 1920s & after a short while had settled on a few hundred acres of farmland which they worked and lived on until about 1980, a good run for sure. The picture above is of their Dowagiac farmhouse circa 1975 - loved that house, mom was born in the kitchen...during what she said was the worst snowstorm in decades, but that was over 80 years ago!
I spent many many days running around the land, crawling through the barn and coop as a young lad and I suppose that's where the land, farming and sense of place were baked into me. So, when seeing Farmer John for the first time, the fire was re-lit and has continued through LLF and now into SF where we continue to support local farmers and have had some city chickens in our backyard for the past 5-6 years (we've nicknamed it 14th Street Farms).
Alright, some outtakes from the letter below - hope it shines a light into you during this season like it did me & a return to the roots:
"One more week to go and the season is over...it does amaze me, even after all these years, that we are able to make these beautiful boxes week in and week out, come rain, come wind, come all manner of mechanical failure. It really is due first and foremost to Aurora - my beautiful partner in life and business. We started started Greenhearts and farming together with no experience, just love. We lived in a tent with a power chord running down from the barn; we lived in an old trailer that ran off a battery we charged during the day. We had money enough for rent on farms and warehouses but couldn't afford housing...When she gave birth two years ago - she answered a last business call before going into labor and took one day off before going back to work...
...With hard work and perseverance, successes and setbacks, we have grown from about a dozen deliveries a week to 400. We rent an actual house on a beautiful 30 acre farm in Half Moon Bay. We have 13 employees, 3 tractors, 8 trucks and a station wagon. And though I worry about money, about crops, machines, weather, I never worry that I'm doing the wrong thing - because farming has given me everything a man needs: work, responsibility, humility, community and sustenance.
Aurora and I devote our life to this box. Many of our employees have likewise made this labor their focus. It is that important to us. I want you to feel this story deep in your heart - because we feel it there, too. Feeding your family good, healthy, local food is our mission and our privilege. Enjoy the holidays; savor the flavors of the season and thank you."