Recently, my husband and I worked on a farm. For us city folk, this was quite an unusual thing to do and you may wonder if we did it on purpose…which we did. This recent experience is another part of living out our new food philosophy. You see, a couple of years ago, we read Michael Pollan’s The Ominvores Dilemma and it changed our lives. We came away with a whole new perspective on what we eat and where it comes from. We dubbed ourselves “compassionate carnivores” …and we got a farmer.
We support a small organic family farm in north Georgia about 2 hours away from our home. They provide us with produce, eggs, pork, beef and chicken. If we lived closer, we’d get our milk from them, too. We met at our local farmers market, and built a relationship with them, their land and their animals and they’ve become like a part of our family.
Last winter, I had the idea to work with our farmer for a few days – to get dirty and see what all goes into a working farm – and when school got out (my husband’s a teacher) that’s exactly what we did. And guess what? We had a great time and even learned a few things.
Getting back to nature can be fun
I’m not an outdoorsy person and many people looked at me quizzically when I announced my farmhand plan, but I knew what had to be done and I was prepared for whatever came my way on the farm. I knew there would be bugs, and that I might even get pecked by a mean rooster so naturally I was asked to pick the ugly brown stink bugs off the squash plants and when I gathered eggs, I was eyed by the rooster but was pecked by the hen. I didn’t die and I didn’t even bleed. I was living the farm life with the bugs, dirt and animals…and I liked it.
Getting out of your comfort zone can be fun
I work in the Amoena corporate office and most days rarely leave my desk, even for lunch (I know, I know…). I haven’t spent two full days in the out-of-doors in a long (very long) time but I needed a challenge – one that didn’t involve designing a swimwear catalog or the latest issue of Amoena Life magazine. So off to the farm I went. Summers are hot and humid in the south so I armed myself with sunscreen and a hat, put on long pants to protect myself from the stinging nettles and walked onto the farm. Within 30 minutes I was hot, I was sweating, I welcomed a light rain shower and I didn’t miss my office one bit. As I was picking blueberries I looked up and saw a passenger plane moving south toward Atlanta and I thought about the business travelers above me, working on laptops, answering emails and me…on the ground picking blueberries… and I thought, “How’d I get so lucky to be here picking blueberries?”
Knowing where your food comes from is really, really fun
Farming is hard work. It’s back breaking and that’s not just a cliché. The potatoes we dug; the blueberries, tomatoes, squash, green beans we picked; the broccoli we cut; and the milk we milked were going to become someone’s lunch or dinner (including my own!) and that was a rewarding feeling. I fed the happy pigs who will so kindly provide me with meat in the late summer. I cried when we left, because I knew that may be the last time I see my Holstein friend Porter. Knowing that my food source is found on a piece of good land, providing nourishing produce and that the animals who live on that land are living a good life makes me appreciate every morsel I put into my mouth (and I know those morsels are pesticide and antibiotic free, too!)
When we embarked on our farmhand journey we already had a strong philosophy for how we choose the foods we eat and had already built a strong relationship with our farmer. But we wanted to take it to the next level. As we packed up our bounty to sell at the farmers markets the next morning I came to a humbling realization: we didn’t just work to feed ourselves, we worked to feed a community.