Farmer John Writes: About Interest

 In Farm News

Week 11, September 17th – 21st, 2019

The Weather and the Crops
We have pristine baby kale this week. We have a lovely harvest of cilantro (if we can get the rain to stop long enough–cilantro cannot be harvested wet.) The broccoli has come on strong. I have mentioned this before, but it warrants mentioning again–midwestern climate is not ideal for growing broccoli–too many waves of heat mature it too fast. Still, we grow it, because it often is lovely. If not lovely, we might still give it, unless we decide it’s simply not lovely enough. And wow, have we been getting hit with storms again, deluge after deluge. Sound familiar?

Storybook baby kale

Some of our shareholders don’t read Farm News. You read it; at least you are reading this issue, and maybe you read most or all of them. That is most appreciated, as it helps to develop a relationship between you and the farm. That way, you will know and likely understand why the baby greens were in short supply earlier, why the peppers have been sparse, why the broccoli isn’t always stellar, and that the John Deere 6430 was stuck in the mud right up to its frame. If a shareholder doesn’t know these things, he or she is not in a close relationship to the farm. 

We tried to ascertain from a survey once just how many people read Farm News. Since the people who don’t read Farm News are probably not that likely to fill out a survey saying they don’t read Farm News, we had to guess at the level of readership. We guessed that about half of our shareholders don’t read it. There’s not really anything I can do to get our shareholders to read Farm News; at least I have never been able to figure this out.  I suppose this group that doesn’t read Farm News are those that are most likely to fire off a complaint.

Imagine if you don’t read Farm News. You just get a box of vegetables, no context, nothing that relates you to the biography of the vegetables in the box, no context other than what’s in the box. It would be like going to a party where no one introduced themselves.

I think farms are most interesting places, and that’s why I like to share the story of our farm. Because you read Farm News, you are in the inner circle. I so appreciate those of you who take an interest in Angelic Organics by reading the newsletter. 

Harvesting baby greens

My Interest in Interest
Interest is an interesting phenomenon. What causes it? Where does it come from? Why are so many teenagers interested in how to act disinterested? Why do some shareholders read the newsletter and others don’t?

I suppose if a shareholder doesn’t read the newsletter, the farm serves that person more as a store or supplier of vegetables rather than as a relationship. You probably know that I never started our Community Supported Agriculture program back in 1990 to be a store; rather, I wanted to share with others the rich, ever unfolding drama of a farm, as represented by story and food. Farm News became the primary medium for sharing this story. (Our Field Days also share that story.)

With a relationship to the farm through reading Farm News, you know why greens were sparse for many weeks this season, you know that the peppers and celery are a big disappointment due to weather, why basil was only good for a couple of harvests, why cilantro might not be in this week’s box, why it’s been a challenge to pack each box accurately. If someone doesn’t read Farm News, that person might write our Community Coordinator Denise, wanting more celery, asking where the cilantro is, etc.

You and I
It’s similar with relationships between people: without the right communication, you and I can’t know how to properly engage each other. If we know a person’s limitations, strengths, and interests we will interact accordingly. If we don’t know, we might make a thoroughly unreasonable and inappropriate request or judgment of that person.

There is a wonderful summary for cultivating relationship that arose out of Rudolf Steiner’s work: “Who are you? What do you need? How can I help?” (This could also apply to cultivating relationship with a farm, though in that case the farmer would need to be somewhat the interpreter/translator for the farm.) 

I often run roughshod over the above sequence of questions, by asking “What do you want out of life and what is in the way of your achieving it?” Of course, these questions can be disarming and seem invasive, but many people are never asked these questions. Astounding–the most important things in life are seldom inquired about! Generally, people welcome these questions from me; sometimes not whatsoever. 

Even more to the point, in Parsifal’s (Percival’s, in English) search for the holy grail, he found it after much searching and suffering, not by answering a question but by taking interest in the other and asking the right question, “What ails thee?”

The Feather Room Teaches about the Right Question
When groups of young people come to visit the farm, I often show them the feather room, a guest room in the downstairs of the big barn. The feather room has plain beige walls. I show the group the bland walls and say, “when you are thoroughly bored by the person across from you, you probably haven’t asked the right question, and you experience something like these plain beige walls.”

Feather room before the right question

“Ask the right question,” (I then flip a switch to illuminate the walls from behind the stretched muslin walls), “and the person across from you will become luminous, like these walls. Everyone is interesting; it’s just a matter of asking the right question and the person will light up.” 

Feather room after the right question

Kids get it.

The Buildings Whisper their Longings
I approach my farm buildings with great love and interest. In a certain imaginative way, they therefore reveal to me their needsespecially their aesthetic needs. These images visit me in a most compelling way, and I have been acting on them for the past 50 years, incorporating them into the re-use and design of the structures. If you come to our Field Day, stroll through the big barn and imagine the imaginations it has inspired in me since 1970, when I began to re-purpose it. Whatever you behold there came from the barn’s longings, not from me; I am simply a conduit, a conduit who loves the barn.

The world in general, whether animate or inanimate, benefits from and responds to our interest. With enough interest, especially when the interest morphs into love, much in the world will begin to speak to us, to murmur its secrets, its longings. 

A Day Long Workshop about the Social Organism of the Farm
In November 2012, for the national Biodynamic Conference held in Madison, I hosted an all day pre-conference event at Angelic Organics titled Awakening to the Social Organism of the Farm. The presentation focused on communication skills, how to be more fully human with one another, and how to be more connected to a farm. 

In the presentation, I quoted from Garments of the Farm Individuality by Hartmut van Jeetze: 

“The land has always been a close friend and ally of humanity. A farm individuality is a being that comes to life, into existence, only through the activity of human beings and their interaction with nature… In the past, culture was unthinkable without agriculture. A farm develops out of the interaction between what lives in us and in the world around us, thereby becoming an expression of human activity joined by the creative beings of the world.”

Hartmut agrees that a farm is not just a store.

No Question
Of course, without interest, there will never be the right question, nor will shareholders read Farm News. How interest comes about, I do not know. I do know that you are interested enough to read this newsletter. You and the farm and I are therefore in relationship, and for that I am most grateful.

I’ll add that, on occasion, when I receive an uplifting message from a shareholder, I reach for the phone to thank that person and to learn more about him or her. I would like to have that sort of connection to all of our shareholders, but am unfortunately limited by the constraints of farming. 

Everyone is interesting; everyone has a rich story to share (whether they know it or not.) Every farm also has a rich story to share.

Heirloom tomatoes

My Interesting Wife
I am fortunate to have been infinitely interested in every aspect of my wife Haidy since I met her ten years ago–her speaking, her aesthetics, her walk, her clothes, her ideas, her interests, her dreams, her goals, her insights. It’s really an insatiable interest I have–an utmost blessing. I have sometimes wondered, what if I had to work at this interest? What if the interest wasn’t there and I had to create it? Would that even be possible, to create an interest that isn’t already there? 

Get to Know Your Farm Better at Our Field Day on Saturday, September 21

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. (There is no U-Pick garden this year, due to flooding, but there will be pumpkins and gourds for all.) 

Feel free to tell me something about yourself. Or ask me a question. Maybe I’ll ask you a question.

12:30 pm  to 1:30 pm: 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 pm to 2:30 pm: It Depends–maybe a CSA Meeting, maybe just Mingling

3 pm to 4 pm: One More Hayride

More details at

Angelic Organics Learning Center’s 12th Annual Harvest Moon Dinner, Thursday, October 3
Join like-minded people for a delicious dinner, drinks, live music—and much more. Experience the farm in the city–goats included.

Location: The Ivy Room, 12 East Ohio Street, Chicago, IL

5 – 6 PM VIP Reception: panel discussion about increasing the food supply of local and sustainable food

6 – 9:30 PM Cocktail Reception and Dinner, featuring local, seasonal and organic ingredients

Angelic Organics Learning Center relies on the generosity of people like you.

Learn more and purchase tickets here: 2019 Harvest Moon Dinner

Your Share
Let the farm office know anything you’d like to share about this week’s box at email hidden; JavaScript is required. Please note the week and day of delivery, your site, when you picked up your box, and any comments about your box. If your box is missing an item, let us know at email hidden; JavaScript is required and we’ll make it right.

Make sure to add both email hidden; JavaScript is required and email hidden; JavaScript is required to your email address book to make sure that you receive all pertinent emails. 

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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