Farmer John Writes: The Will and a Surprise
Week 14, October 8th – 12th, 2019
The Weather and Our Potatoes
We might have a letup in the rains early this week. If so, we’ll harvest the potatoes. We usually get all the root crops out of the ground by late September, knowing that rain might start then and not let up much until frost. The ground was too muddy throughout September to harvest the potatoes.
Fortunately, we have a mechanical potato harvester that usually makes the job of harvesting potatoes go fast. It still takes several people for the operation–an operator of the tractor pulling the harvest machine; an operator of the harvest controls on the harvester, an operator of the wagon tractor and two people standing next to a conveyor on the machine, pulling out rocks that the machine can’t distinguish from potatoes. (Our ground isn’t very rocky, but still, we have rocks.) I’m going to predict that we will have a lot of nice potatoes in their bins soon. (Full disclosure: I have been wrong before about things. Being wrong is part of the process of learning.)
In last week’s issue of Farm News, Week 13, I wrote about Sara and Symbria Patterson from Red Acre farm in southern Utah, including our experience of the Twilight Zone in rural Kentucky. They came to the farm last weekend to help with our Michaelmas event. I want to elaborate.
Sara started Red Acre Farm CSA when she was 14. Haidy and I met Sara and her lively mom Symbria seven years ago at a Biodynamic Conference when Sara was 17. I kept running into them at the conference and finally said, “Since I keep running into you two, I suppose we should talk.” Talk we did, and they fast became Haidy’s and my friends.
Sara has astounding forces of will. She and her mom coax CSA shares out of their hardscrabble red soil with a short growing season. (The last frost there this year was July 4.) Sara almost singlehandedly made the dinner last weekend for the 23 Michaelmas event guests.
On the Monday following the Michaelmas celebration, Sara was most eager to work with the crew. I could tell she would simply be restless unless she was out in the field using her hands to harvest something. I bring this up, because it is rare for a person of any age or gender to visit the farm and be absolutely determined to work in the fields–like, no stopping her.
I have often invited Sara and Symbria to move to Angelic Organics to head up the cultural/social/culinary activities and also to help us farm. I have never extended such an invitation to anyone else, so you know how special they are. However, they have their own farm and are immersed in their own community in southern Utah, so they won’t be joining us soon , if ever.
The board of the Angelic Organics Learning Center chose Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma as a reading assignment for discussion at an upcoming board gathering. I reflected on this plan a bit, and wrote the board the following:
“Dear Learning Center Board Members,
I was at the book release party for The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It was in 2006.
I was actually sort of tricked into going by the host of the party, Nora Pouillon, founder of Restaurant Nora, the first certified organic restaurant in the country. I was in D.C. for the release of Farmer John’s Cookbook. This was the beginning of my national tour with my book.
For some mysterious reason, Nora insisted that I come to her high-end restaurant with any guest I chose every night I was in D.C. and eat for free.
I said, “Nora, you can’t afford to feed us for free.”
Nora said, “but you have to eat.”
Then she insisted I come to a private party at her home on Saturday night. I had other plans.
I had other plans.
We went back and forth like this for a few days until I finally cancelled my other plans and agreed to attend her party.
There were many people from the national press at the party, and also Michael Pollan. I recognized Michael because I had met Michael with Alice Waters in Oakland at a screening of The Real Dirt on Farmer John which Alice introduced.
(Slight digression: while I was standing outside the theater talking with Michael and Alice, Al Gore strode through the theater plaza. Alice said, “there goes Al. He just leased two jets to help people evacuate from the floods in New Orleans due to the hurricane.” Little did I know then that Al would be hugging me goodnight in a hotel parking lot in Nashville a year later. See Farm News, Week 13 for an elaboration on that evening with the Gores.)
Back to Nora’s party: I gradually realized that Nora was hosting a book release party for Michael Pollan.
So, there was Michael Pollan.
Then Nora announced that it was a book release party for, in her words, two very special authors. I thought wow, another special author at Nora’s event. I scanned the audience, wondering who the other author was. Then Nora introduced me to the guests as the other author.“
About Farmer John’s Cookbook, it started in the late 90’s as a group of recipes by shareholders. Then I decided to take it further and make it into a full-fledged cookbook, a companion book to the feature documentary film about the farm and my life The Real Dirt on Farmer John.The book features recipes grouped by season and by vegetable. It provides cooking tips, serving suggestions, and descriptions of each dish. It includes some of my essays from Farm News.
Being a Rudolf Steiner enthusiast, I also endeavored to make the book about the forces in food, rather then the substances in food, without getting too esoteric or outlandish. The book touched on the hidden influences on humans of potatoes and other foods. (Think about the potato harvest coming up.) It addressed the forces of will. (Consider Sara’s extraordinary will forces.) It vacillates between the sacred and the profane, inspiring Martha Graveson of the Biodynamic Association to call it the most entertaining cookbook ever!
I’m remembering now, Michael Pollan endorsed the book: This is a delicious book, equal parts food for the mind and the belly.
So did Alice Waters endorse it: Farmer John, with boa and pitchfork is provocative and passionate about cultivating not only delicious vegetables but also a vibrant community of farmers and consumers dedicated to the values of sustainability.
For three years in a row, I gave copies of the cookbook to all shareholders who didn’t already have a copy.
Unfortunately, the book is now out of print. You can occasionally track down a stray copy on the internet.
We hope to someday have it online for our shareholders, so you can have easy access to our popular beet burger and chocolate beet cake recipes, and read exotic things about the will and potatoes.
For those of you with a fruit share, find this week’s fruit newsletter here.
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 for being with us for a dramatic farming adventure this season.