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2016 Farm-to-Fork Gift Guide: Kid Edition

Know a preschooler who can’t get enough of building, constructing and creating new things out of simple pieces? Block Mates Farm Animals turn basic wooden blocks into imaginative livestock toys. If you don’t already have some, the blocks can be picked up separately for under […]

The Best People Love Food: A Survey

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” Harriet Van Horne was a wise woman. I have always been a supporter of American farmers broadly speaking; not just of our farm or of farms like ours, but of […]

On Generational Farming

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People farm for many reasons. For the pride in producing food. For the lifestyle connected to the land. To make a living. To provide for a family. To build a legacy.

I’ve contemplated every single one of them over the years, perhaps none more than the last, but it wasn’t until my own kid made her first investment in a longterm agriculture venture that I really paused to think about what it means to pass agriculture down through the generations.

I remember talking with a friend about their own experience making sense of generational transfer as an adult farm “kid,” their desire to have something to look forward to, and the work involved in getting their parents on board, and I have to be honest: it was a perplexing conversation for me. I didn’t — still to some extent don’t — understand a lack of desire to pass a farm off to your children. Farming, after all, has always been one of this nation’s most familial of business ventures. If the farm is doing anything other than going under it’s virtually always simply expected that at least one of the farm kids will take over once they become an adult — even when it’s difficult for the older generation to let go.

And to me this has always made sense. Until my oldest daughter invested her own money into a cow-calf pair. Suddenly, premature as it may be, the magnitude of this legacy, this family pastime, this profession-obsession-identity, this whatever-you-want-to-call it, hit me. And I have to be honest: suddenly I wasn’t so sure. I found myself understanding my friends’ parents more than my friend. My mind kept replaying the same question over and over: do I want this for her? And not just to farm, but to be in agriculture as an industry. And I couldn’t be sure. I have since come to the conclusion that of course I do. Of course I want this for her. But I wouldn’t say that conclusion came easily, or even quickly. The cow has been here for just about two months now and I’m just getting around to writing this down, after all.

It’s not about the legacy though, nor about the continuation of a tradition, or a tie to their roots. I want this for them, because the continuation is a representation of from whence they came. Because as much as I might be able to imagine an easier — or maybe even a quote-unquote better — future for them, I cannot imagine a better past. I cannot fathom having raised them anywhere else, with any other values or experiences. Are there other things I wish I’d had an opportunity to add to their upbringing? Absolutely. But I can’t think of anything about it that I would want to take away; there’s nothing I would subtract from the sum total of their lives so far.

And so, if the natural progression of the upbringing I’m absolutely honored to have been able to give them is a future even as a struggling member of this industry, I certainly can’t complain.

Living The Last Meal

The thing about marriage in that stage of your lives where you’re both busy in the familial sense of having kids who are of a certain age and involved in every extracurricular under the sun, and the professional sense where you’re both able to chase […]

The All-Black Wooly Bear and Other Signs of Winter

Every year I watch the wooly bears. They say the more black on their bodies the harsher the winter to come. There’s no proof they know what they’re doing. There’s even evidence that they probably do not. I watch anyway. I watch to see how […]

Miscellany: Dispatches from Early Fall

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There’s a feeling of finality in early fall in rural America; a lull between the heat of the summer and the hustle and bustle of the grain harvest season. I am one of those insufferable people who Love, with a capital ‘L’, the holidays and the first whispers of colder weather are always a welcome invitation to begin preparing for them.

This year though, there were no whispers. We went from eighties and nighties and high humidity to sixties at, what seemed like, the flip of a switch. We are surrounded by Black Walnut trees here; they’re always quick to shed their leaves, and they’re wasting no time in the task this season. Walking outside to a hail of gold fluttering through the air is always enough to put me in the autumn mood.

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You might think that after so many years of the same thing, I wouldn’t be caught by surprise when it’s time to winterize the farm, but you would be wrong. It’s not that I don’t see it coming at all, it’s that — especially during years like this one — the time left always feels longer until we’re mere steps from the finish line.

A few weeks ago we had to send the ATV we normally use daily for basic chores into the shop to get some work done, and they’ve yet to make a final diagnosis. Now, as I make lists — both mental and physical — of all the things I need to get done around here before snow flies I am missing it fiercely. We have ways of doing everything without it, but not without added complications; which also means added time and effort.

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The farm kids’ pleading for “a lamb for fair,” this summer means we’ve had Ferdinand the Ram with the ewes for several weeks now already. We have, thus far, only lambed in the spring and I have liked it that way. It’s warm outside, there’s plenty of lush grass for both lactating Mamas and quickly growing babies; it almost makes for a fool proof lambing season. But spring lambs aren’t old enough for summer fairs; only winter lambs have enough time to grow big and strong, and finish out. So we’ll try it. The principles of winter birth and newborns are the same across the species and we’re not entirely green even with sheep, but any farmer will tell you that theory and practice are not listed as synonyms for one another for good reason.

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Miscellany + Pictures That Have Been Languishing in my Camera for Months

All of the pictures in this post are months old. Taken this spring when everything was fresh and green. Before it was ninety-five degrees and we hadn’t seen anything that could pass for rain in weeks. I had forgotten about them and normally wouldn’t bother […]

Crispy Egg Breakfast Tacos + Black Garlic Pineapple Salsa

A few weeks ago one of our long-time-farm-customers turned friends gifted me a bag of single clove black garlic she’d brought back from a recent trip to Japan. I’d been contemplating how I wanted to use them, reading up on how chefs around the world […]

Miscellany: “No Time to Say Hello, Goodbye”

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Every so often I take a picture that is technically atrocious, but I love. And then I am appalled with myself. That’s the story behind this one from a short road trip I had to take yesterday. As soon as I saw it there were a list of things wrong with it in my head, but I also immediately knew I’d use it. Usually, the thing with those unsound pictures is that while they may not capture the imagery very well, they capture the mood full stop.

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Still no lambs. Last night I even did a midnight check because Louisa had been nesting and restless, her flanks have been sunken for a week and her udder looks like an over-inflated water balloon. But no luck. I didn’t originally have her on the calendar as due until the end of this week, but then the shearer convinced me they might be ready a bit earlier. Now I’m getting impatient.

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Remember last week when I said all the tomato seeds had been planted and most were up? I lied. I had the bright idea to go through my stash of seeds and unload… eh hem, GIFT… a bunch to my Mother-in-Law, who loves to garden and is better at it than I am anyway. I did manage to get rid of a whole bag full of seed packets, but I also found a few other varieties of tomatoes I just had to plant. Every time I think I have escaped the grip of the tomato-addicted gardener’s disease it reels me back in.

On the bright side, I ran across a pack of regular San Marzano seeds and decided it would be a grand idea to plant a bunch to compare side-by-side with my beloved San Marzano Redortas. So we all have those notes to look forward to mid to late-summer.

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The season is both literally and figuratively heating up now. Seventy degrees by the end of this week. My to-do list seems to grow with every passing minute. This is the time of year I love, but also find it curious that when I am most on top of things I feel most scattered. Like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, “No time to say ‘Hello,’ Goodbye! I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Going too many directions at once, I suppose. Which is also not unlike the white rabbit. No matter, I’ll be back later this week with a couple more posts. One on speaking the language of pigs by request, plus a some more garden thoughts on what’s worth planting and how much.

A Few Favorite Things: April 8

Read: The books I’ve been reading this week don’t really fit with what I usually post here so this week’s book recommendation is an oldie, but goodie I pulled off my shelves. Tracie McMillan put more personally on the line to write The American Way […]