Welcome To Harvest Week 20: The Final Week of the Main Season, Tue/Wed/Thurs Delivery, Oct 22, 23 & 24, 2013
Farmer John Writes: Watch What You Say
Thank you for being with us this bountiful season! We’ve enjoyed providing you with vegetables and herbs from our fields.
Week 20, maybe your last delivery of the season?
Please return your CSA vegetable boxes and mesh bags to your site.
Watch What You Say
You might know that a few years back, I toured widely with the film about my farm and my life, The Real Dirt on Farmer John. I was in considerable demand for appearances, and tried to accommodate with my schedule as many presentations as possible. If I happened to be in an area where I found out that the film would be screening, I would often figure out how to offer myself up for an appearance. I was almost always welcomed to a screening with the utmost enthusiasm and appreciation. (To clarify, most of my appearances were booked in advance, but the film was on a roll for a few years and many additional screenings of the documentary were occurring that I found out about through happenstance if at all.)
I learned that the film was going to be screened at Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, New York. Two food celebrities, Ruth Reichl, prolific food writer and last editor-in-chief of the now shuttered Gourmet magazine, and Janet Maslin, film and literary critic for the New York Times, were going to present the film and lead a discussion afterwards. I was on an extensive U.S. tour promoting both my cookbook The Real Dirt on Vegetables and the film, and I was in Manhattan at the time for a screening and book signing, less than an hour from Pleasantville. Since Ruth and Janet didn’t know me, I thought they would have a hard time answering the many questions an audience typically asked about the farm and my life.
I contacted the director of the Film Center by phone, and offered to appear with Ruth and Janet. He hemmed and hawed and offered to approach them to see if that would be ok.
I said, “I don’t want to steal their show. It’s just that I’m in the area and I can come present. They don’t know my life and I do. They can have the floor for most of the presentation and talk about food, etc, but I’m the one most qualified to answer questions on my life.”
He promised to get back to me. He didn’t get back.
I called again. He was waiting to hear from them.
I called again. He didn’t take the call.
Dear reader, if you know me a bit, you might know that I have been plagued with mis-represntations of my life by others. You might know that I have been scandalized in this community where I have lived my whole life. Part of the film touched on this misfortune. I was happy that a feature documentary was being released to the world that (mostly) set the facts straight. (Mostly? Well, it was a film covering 55 years of my life in 83 minutes, so certain small liberties were taken.)
I decided to attend the Jacob Burns screening in disguise. In the East Village, I spent an afternoon at a costume store on 11th & Broadway getting made up to look like a goateed young’n. For those of you who know of Ruth Reichl, the irony of my attending in disguise will not be lost; Ruth is legendary as a food reviewer for disguising herself in her restaurant visits, so she wouldn’t be singled out by the staff and given special service.
Several New York friends, including my wonderful dancer friend Dahlia, accompanied me to the screening, in order to surround me during my entrance, so that I wouldn’t be recognized. We sat towards the rear of the packed theater. (Packed…after all, the discussion was going to be lead by celebrities.) I scoped the audience. The attendees looked affluent and well-mannered… More sophisticated than fun.
The film ended and the discussion started. It’s hard to characterize it as a discussion, since Ruth and Janet did most of the talking. They talked with great authority about my life, but the problem was, as I have already stated, they didn’t know about my life. They made things up. They said, “oh, Farmer John partied a lot when he was young, didn’t farm the way he should have, and his farm went down. Other farmers worked hard and the economic conditions went against them, but Farmer John partied his farm away.”
Dahlia started squirming in her seat ahead of me, and finally raised her hand. I crouched down as the audience looked our way.
“That’s not true. I know John and he worked really hard when he was young. He was very dedicated to his farm.”
I sat through a few more minutes of their pontificating on my life. I had gone to the screening, planning to just see what the discussion was like and then slip out unnoticed. I can’t remember what it was that finally got to me. Maybe it was Dahlia’s indignation that started to well up more and more in me. But what were these two women doing up there, acting like they were authorities on my life? The film touched on the reprehensible practice of making things up about others. Here they were, talking me down with fabrications. Hadn’t they just watched the film?
I raised my hand and waved for the microphone that was being circulated to the audience. When it was handed to me, I stood up and announced, “Good evening. I’m Farmer John.”
I took the pink boa out of my back pocket, threw it around my neck and said, “Anything anyone wants to know about me, I’m here to give you the answers.”
A hush engulfed the room, then a collective gasp. A few people leapt to their feet, applauding and cheering. Some of the seated audience applauded uncertainly. Mostly the audience looked from me to Janet and Ruth. Janet and Ruth looked towards me and each other. They finally waved me up to the stage.
I got to talk about my life with the audience. I got to clarify that what we did on my farm in my earlier years were celebrations of agriculture. I said that much of the sacredness of farming had been culturally forgotten in the waves of commercialization that were industrializing agriculture, and that on my farm we had strived to experience and portray farming as a sacred activity. Janet and Ruth got to listen to this important clarification.
I was mobbed at the reception afterwards. One of the attendees told me, “I’ve been coming to Jacob Burns for years. This is the best thing that ever happened here. It woke people up.”
I noticed that Janet kept looking over in my direction. I felt a little sorry for Janet and Ruth, who probably weren’t getting as much attention as they were used to and who I had pretty badly busted. Maybe they felt sorry for me.
This happened in 2006. Jacob Burns Film Center never mentioned this occurrence in their “Highlights of the Year” newsletter. It never got into the press and I always felt a little badly for embarrassing Ruth and Janet, so I never really wrote or said much about it, until now.
And maybe Ruth learned a lesson. In June of 2007, the New York Times ran a story about farmer writers, an article that prominently featured your Farmer John. Ruth Reichl, was quoted in the article: “It’s really important to me to give farmers a voice,” said…the [former] editor of Gourmet Magazine…
How has Your Season Been?
The Weather This Past Week
We finally got our first frost of the season. It usually comes two weeks earlier.
Some of the crops will sweeten up due to the frost, notably the chard and kale.
Now the crew starts at 8 a.m., an hour later than last week. There’s less to do, and less light to do it in. They have been stellar this season, day after day, running, lugging, lifting, sorting, bunching, cleaning, grading, bagging, packing…a Super Crew.
Last week, I wrote that we plan to re-build the milkhouse. Primo and I have worked together for 22 years, so we know by now how important it is to plan, think, discuss, project, and imagine before we really get going on a project. Once we get going, we like to really go forward, with a minimum of obstacles. Of course, there is still plenty to ponder during the actual construction process.
Upcoming at the Angelic Organics Learning Center
There is an autumn chill in the air and, sadly, the regular season shares are coming to a close, but there are still ways for you to enjoy Angelic Organics Farm. This year, the Learning Center is offering three programs on the week of Thanksgiving for families: Pumpkin Pie Baking; Thanksgiving Meal Baking; and DIY Holiday Gifts.
Pumpkin Pie! A Family Program: Come tour our farm to make an organic pumpkin pie to bring home with you on November 24th from 10 AM to 3 PM!
Thanksgiving Food from the Farm: A Program for Families!: On November 27th from 9 AM to 4 PM, your family has the opportunity to use squash and eggs to make a delicious pie, cook bread in our earth oven, and mash potatoes, plus spend time with the animals. Each family will bring home their own bread, pie, and vegetables.
DIY Holiday Gifts: Avoid the masses of shoppers on Black Friday and come out to the farm on November 29th from 1 PM to 4 PM to make your own holiday gifts. We’ll have natural materials on hand (many from the farm!) for shaping your own goat milk soap bars, and hand-crafting lip balm, herbal bath salts, and calendula salve.
To register for these and other programs, visit www.learngrowconnect.org/event
Thank you for supporting local foods this year!
Please Note: this summary is written before you receive your box—please be aware that some guesswork is involved. As always, be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables.
Salad Greens – Lettuce, Spinach
Fruiting Crops – Red Kuri Squash, Popcorn
Herbs – Dill,
Apiums – Garlic
Root Crops – Daikon Radishes
Cooking Greens – Kale, Swiss Chard
Brassicas – Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Pac Choi, maybe a Kohlrabi