We’re not there yet, but we’re working toward a change — eating all of our food from local sources. It doesn’t hurt to live on a farm, where, over the past year, we’ve been engaged in a completely life-altering lifestyle shift. It blows my mind to see how far we’ve come in a year, and how incredibly real is the power of intention.
It’s early May, and we’re eating rhubarb and asparagus from the garden and eggs from our hens. Pretty soon, we (and you) will have lettuce, chard, spinach and peas and so much more. The asparagus bed is new, and isn’t yielding much yet, but it’s graced a few incredibly satisfying meals at our table. Enough slender shoots are coming up to promise a better crop next year, and beyond. The rhubarb is abundant, and we’re exploring other ways to eat it beyond the delicious rhubarb crisp that is Michael’s culinary specialty. Rhubarb sauce over chicken? Delicious. Rhubard bread, rhubard muffins? How about rhubard salsa? Definitely rhubarb jam. A few jars of it from our pantry shelf will appear on our breakfast table throughout the winter, not to mention in holiday gifts to friends and family. Last year in their gift boxes, our friends got little packages of sun-dried tomatoes, green tomatillo salsa, and grape jelly from our kitchen, and we were eating canned tomatoes in January that still tasted like August.
Soon, there will be strawberries. At one time, I didn’t even hestitate to throw strawberries into my shopping cart when they appeared in the produce department in January. All that juicy and delicious Chilean redness – like a Siren song, beckoned from the display, triggering a calculated response aimed at every shopper’s need for a surrogate Spring. They’re a poor substitute, aren’t they? A bland-tasting, card-boardy imitation that always disappoints, picked before full ripening to survive that long journey. And imagine how much oil it took to get them here! I know better now, and there’s nothing like the juicy, ripe strawberries we pick at Wheelerbrook Farm in Georgetown every June. Those, we know enough to eat today, or freeze them, or by tomorrow, they’re past their peak. So greedily we consume them, popping them in our mouths as soon as we get into the car, hardly waiting for the shortcake they’ll smother later that evening. Strawberries epitomize the experience of seasonal eating. This year, Michael has taken on the task of planting a new strawberry bed so that next spring, we’ll have them to enjoy. Alongside the strawberries, we’re planting Sugarbaby Watermelons and Cantaloupe. The place he’s chosen is perfect for these fruits — a south-facing slope with sandy soil. If the vegetable and weather gods are kind this year, these melons will appear in your share packages.
Last winter, my family and I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” and Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food,” and we’ve never looked back. Last summer we revived the gardens Bill’s father always lavished with such care. We started flats of vegetables on the windowsill, and produced enough vegetables to supply the family and a small amount to sell at the Rowley Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings. We had a blast, making friends, exchanging recipes and farming methods with other local farmers, and supporting the local community by buying things from the other farmers. Each week I made a commitment to buy at least one item from each booth at our market, doing our share to support the locavore movement. We’ve never eaten better.
So I’ve quit my day job. My new occupation: farmer/manager/marketing specialist/jewelry artist and teacher. I’m already talking to local chefs and restaurant owners, and Whole Foods market, all of whom are clamoring for local freshness. Not all of it will hapeen this year, but certainly the opportunities are there for the picking. The time is ripe (pardon the puns) for a new kind of farming. And at Mehaffey Farm, we’re ready to grow with it!