Friday, February 7, 2014

Pondering About my Life of Urban Farming

A Tribute to Our Early CSA Days, that has Become Our Anthem

I was talking with a retired farmer friend the other day while we were discussing grasshoppers, unseasonally cold, icy weather and why in the heck we do what we do for a living; when we know there are countless other ways to make a buck or two. Many times as I wander up and down damaged rows of half eaten something or anothers, I have this thought to myself, too. But, most of us, push on and replant, replant and replant again. If it was easy, everyone would do it - was her late husband's saying. He said if he ran out of money to farm, he'd borrow some and farm some more. He never really retired before he left his field for the last time. He was doing what he loved every day and he left his part of the world, and through his wisdom, many others, a much better place. That's something I hope to be able to say, too.

Being able to grow food is a pretty awesome feeling. Being able to grow enough food to feed 30+ families and sell some at my neighborhood market day and then also to local chefs and still sometimes have more to give away to a food bank or "hungry family" basket; is enough to make me stop and pinch myself. Do I really do that? Well, most of the time. There have been some seasons where if it hadn't been for some of my generous fellow colleagues having bumper crops of something, we'd not have had nearly the selection, or the abundance, we did sometimes. You can't control nature and you can't guarantee anything in this business.
Introducing city children (Like I was) to one of our hens

But it is still pretty amazing to me that I get to do this for a living. Every day. I mean I'm sure my bank account would relish at the thought of me taking a second job. But I started out working full time and farming at night and on weekends, and I am here to tell you, after farming more or less alone full time now for the past 5 years, I have no idea how I did that! I can't imagine having to do all that I need to get done on top of working even a part time job right now. I'd be wearing pj's to harvest in before dawn and eating pbj sandwiches for all 3 meals instead of just grabbing one for lunch because I'd not have time to make anything else. I do get to sneak out to various food related events and do so among those I consider friends, but technically, that is working, too! It's just nice that I happen to love the folks in my local food community so much that I get to enjoy the company I keep while "working".

Houses bordering the main gardens of our urban farm
This farm is smack dab in the middle of a small but growing city with cars and trucks whizzing by the front of the nondescript house that sits on the 14 acres hidden behind it. There is an interstate about a block away, but some days you'd swear it was running through the pasture you worked in. I try to convince myself that the hum is really a distant waterfall - a cool trick someone pretty creatively optimistic taught me - and another friend has me hanging little wind chimes randomly among the trees to bring little twinkling fairy-like sounds to the woods. And there are houses and apartments dotting the borders on all sides as well as two dead end streets, one on each side of the farm. This is where neighborhood kids cut across the pasture to save a few blocks of walking, or occasionally, driving their golf carts or ATV's, all the way around the farm to get to their favorite corner convenience store. Apparently, they go to buy sodas, junk food and lottery tickets, judging from the litter found in their path. (I'm hoping the plastic bag ban catches fire in town here, too. Although, at least I have something to put the litter into as I walk along and find it.)

I hope soon to be able to reach out and show kids like them that they can stop and pick some fresh apples from an abundant food forest instead of going all the way to the corner stores for "food-like substances". Making healthy, fresh food affordable and available to the community where I live is important to me. And I really feel pretty fortunate to have the opportunity to share my work in so many cool ways. I'm humbled, yet sometimes taken aback, when people walk up to me and ask, "aren't you Eden's?" when I'm perusing the aisle of a grocery store or some documentary screening. Now it's true that I grew up in a town where a lot of people knew me. But I was the 3rd generation of my family to live about a block off of the main street where everyone shopped. My grandfather had been the barber and my uncle the local plumber and a very charismatic citizen well known throughout town and at 15 years old, I started working on the main retail strip initially at the dry cleaners and then in the only camera store in town - before the days of digital - where lots of folks in town had their holiday, birthday and everyday pictures developed. My family was all pretty well recognized in that town, but I never imagined being recognized in a metroplex of millions, 900 miles away from where I grew up. Like I said, it's humbling and a bit disconcerting all at the same time. I guess it's a good thing people like what I do, or it may not be so nice to be known around town. LOL

But all of these city components surround the most interesting and often times fascinating place I have ever had the privilege of working at - much less living on. It doesn't look like much sometimes from the street, unless I've had time to weed the flower bed and plant the cottage garden for the season. But once you step behind the gate, it seems to magically open up and welcome you in.

Next time we visit, I'll take you on a bit of a virtual tour of this little slice of paradise.

Till then -
 Eat Your Food - Naturally!


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