Farmer John Writes: The Dinner That Didn’t Happen

 In Farm News

Week 10, September 10th – 14th, 2019

It’s week 10, halfway through the main season. Some people will say “I can’t believe the season is already half over,” as though the season was sneaking around behind their backs and suddenly jumped out from behind the calendar and surprised them with the passage of time. I’m not one of those people who can’t believe it’s already Halloween or election time or back-to-school time. I recognize the temptation to be surprised, but I won’t fall for it. 

I sometimes ask “how can you not believe it?” or “what don’t you believe about it?” I ask the question jokingly, because many people think it’s their right to be continually surprised by the passage of time. It’s interesting that we have time plotted to the nanosecond, yet the passage of time blindsides so many. 

The main reason that you get vegetables in your box is that we manage time here on the farm, manage it relentlessly, obsessively. We script. We choreograph. We watch the sky. We detail the harvest. We predict, guess. How long? How much longer? By when? 

Farmer John and Time

Years ago, a growing manager on the farm had a place where she put everything that didn’t get done; the place was called Later. Later can be expanded to infinity. It can feel good to put things in that category, because it’s not never; it’s simply later. Seldom did any undone task ever get retrieved from this realm; things just stayed there. I finally banned the use of the word later on the farm.

Still, some things get away from me, go undone, are started and not finished, or finished years later. I often think about the impact of an undone task, because I didn’t find the time, have the time, make the time.

If Not for Later, Andy Warhol Would Have Had a Nice Dinner
The following is from a story I wrote and shared in Farm News many years ago about the dinner that Andy Warhol missed.

“Isa lived here on the farm for five years—late ’70s, early ’80s. From here she moved to Manhattan, where she became the manager of EAT. (If you want to get the feeling for what EAT is like, hear Woody Allen’s reference to it in the film Manhattan. Or just go there and have a light lunch for seventy-five dollars.) 

Andy Warhol occasionally strolled into EAT. Andy liked Isa. He brought her signed copies of Interview magazine. He sent her flowers for her birthday. He brought her little wrapped presents. Isa was confused by this attention from the man who was famous for courting fame; Isa wasn’t famous. She was young, pretty, effervescent, rambunctious, creative. But she wasn’t Mick Jagger or the Queen of England. 

Isa called me a couple times to announce that Andy was coming to Chicago to sign books or open a club. Once, I glued Isa’s baby pictures to an EAT shopping bag, filled it with popcorn and took it to Andy. The other time I wrote him a letter about farm life and presented it to him. Both times I saw Andy, he talked about Isa—her vivaciousness, her friendliness, the possibilities for her future. He did this in between signing pajamas and soup cans and books for admirers. After each Chicago visit he went into EAT the next day and told Isa he had visited with her farmer friend, and that we were picking pumpkins, or whatever I told him we were doing. 

Isa was shy with Andy. One night she called me—this was in the mid-’80s. I was living in the log cabin in our woods. 

“Andy wants to have dinner tomorrow night,” she said very softly. (Isa sort of whispered when she talked on the phone.)
“Great! Are you going to cook for him?” I asked.
“We’re going out. I don’t know what to say.”
“Say when?”
“At the dinner. I don’t know what to talk about.”
“Talk about anything you want. He’s really into you.”
“How do you know?”
“All he wants to talk about is you when I’ve seen him in Chicago. He’s fascinated with you.”
“No, he’s not. What should I talk about?” she whispered.
“Do you think he’s asking you out because he doesn’t like you, Isa?”
“What should I talk about?”
“Tell him we’re harvesting our pumpkins,” I said confidently. “Tell him my mother is helping,” I added. “Tell him my mother is painting our barn, too, and she’s seventy-four. Andy was really into his mother. He would love my mother.”

(I had just finished reading for the second time his book From A to B and Back Again, so I was pretty confident that pumpkins and mothers were suitable conversation topics.)

I spoke with Isa a few weeks later.
“Did you tell Andy about our pumpkins?” I asked.
“I didn’t have to talk.”
“Why? Did he do all the talking?”
“There were eight of us. I didn’t have to say anything.”
“Isa!” I chided.
“He’s coming over for dinner.”
“To your place?”
“Just the two of you?”
“Probably his boyfriend, too.”
“We didn’t set a date. I don’t know what to cook.”
“Isa, you know what to cook. Besides, he doesn’t care what you cook. He wants to hang out with you.”
“We’ll see,” she whispered. 

Months passed. On the radio one afternoon, I heard that Andy Warhol was dead. 

I called Isa.
“Are you okay, Isa?”
“Yeah, I just got back from cross-country skiing in the Catskills. It was beautiful.”
“You don’t know, then?”
“About Andy?”
“What about him?”

How could Isa not know? I wondered. The whole world knows. How do I tell her? There is no way to lead into this, to build up to it.

“He died, Isa.”
“Died?” she gulped. “I was thinking about him in the mountains. Andy’s dead?”
“Yeah,” I said, clenching the phone, feeling such tenderness for Isa—Isa, the sweetest woman in the world, with the biggest heart, and that was why Andy had loved her so.

“Are you sure it’s not just some publicity stunt?”

I pictured Isa in her cute New York apartment, little shriney things all around, twinkly lights, everything beautiful and magenta. I imagined her scared look, her eyes pleading, darting about the room, looking for a happy way out of this sad news.
“It’s not a stunt.”
“I was planning what to cook. I figured it out when I was skiing.”
“He can’t come, Isa,” I said gently.
Long silence.”

Find Time to Attend Our Field Day on Saturday, September 21
If you’ve been thinking maybe some day, we’ll get out there to that farm that feeds us, our Fall Field Day is coming up soon. 


11 a.m to 12:30 p.m: Arrive
Park along the drive. Check in at the big barn.

Mingling, Hayrides, Exploring, Pumpkin Picking
There will be hayrides before lunch–hop on to a wagon and see everything growing. Meet Denise Glasenapp, our Community Coordinator. Explore the farm. Pick pumpkins and gourds. Say hi to the pigs and the goats at the Learning Center.

12:30 p.m  to 1:30 p.m: Potluck–Please bring a large dish to pass
* The dishes at our Field Days are always phenomenal, whether carnivore, vegetarian or vegan (or rich desserts), but sometimes we run short on food–this is not to be on a farm that is all about food! Please bring a dish that will serve at least 8-10 people.

* Please bring your own beverage. We furnish some tables and chairs. Consider bringing a blanket on which to picnic, so we don’t have to provide so many chairs.

1:45 p.m to 2:30 p.m: It Depends–maybe a CSA Meeting, maybe just Mingling

3 p.m to 4 p.m: One More Hayride

More details at

P.S. The story about Andy was scheduled to be compiled in a book of  my autobiographical short stories 15 years ago–still not done.

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Please Fold Your Boxes Properly and Return Them
The farm re-uses the vegetable boxes. Flaps are easily torn when the boxes are dismantled improperly, and then the box bottom might later burst open with fresh, organic local produce heading towards the floor. Please carefully flatten your box and return it to your delivery site. If you receive home delivery, place your flattened, empty box it in the location where your box is delivered.

Thank You
Thank you for being with us for a dramatic farming adventure this season. 

Farmer John



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  • Krista

    O-o. Does that mean your unpublished book now lies firmly in the “later” realm?
    (I’d love to purchase a copy when it makes it to print, I want to hear more of your stories!!!)
    (And I know a couple of book events that might be interested in having you as a “featured reader”, if that helps motivate you…)

  • Debbie

    You do know that the Art Institute of Chicago has just announced an Andy Warhol retrospective exhibit for this fall? Serendipity…

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