April 28, 2011 —
A series of events recently led me to River Brook Farm, the organic farm closest to my home. In my attempt to conserve gasoline, I had never taken the 17-mile drive, since I don’t generally head up Route 97. But I had an engagement in Milanville, PA one Saturday in February, so I made a short detour to C. Meyer Road on the New York side, after hearing raves about Alice and Neil Fitzgerald, proprietors of the farm, and the certified organic crops they grow.
I was treated to a tour of the farm. In one room, a worker planted seeds to sprout under a string of lights. A colorful variety of winter squash, many of which I had never seen, tempted me. Alice showed me jars full of heirloom beans and explained the process of drying them.
Neil gave me a tour of the greenhouse, where they grow a variety of greens. He let me sample a pea sprout. Delectable. Alice took me into the root cellar, which is not really a cellar, but a room with a stone floor filled with a variety of unusual potatoes, purple and orange carrots, celery root and beets of various colors.
Also available are meats from humanely raised animals, and locally baked breads, jellies, honey, eggs and maple syrup.
I bought eggs, local cheese, cute tiny potatoes that Alice said I wouldn’t find in the supermarket, beets, and yes, chickens. I don’t usually eat meat, mainly because of ethical considerations. I understand that humans are omnivorous, but I have seen too many pictures of Concentrated Animal Feed Operations. I know how newly hatched chicks in commercial factories spend their first hours of life—on a conveyor belt from which they are sorted and either destroyed or sent to cages where they can’t move and where they are injected with antibiotics because conditions are so unsanitary. I have no desire to support a system that treats sentient beings like so much merchandise. But I will on special occasions eat chicken raised locally, organically and humanely. This seemed like a special occasion to me.
As I sat down to my meal of chicken, potatoes, and pickled beets, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. The experience of eating my meal and knowing the farm and the people who worked to bring my food to my table deepened my experience.
The food we eat does not come from the supermarket. It comes from the soil, from toil, from sun, from water. You can choose whether you eat food grown by someone who loves the earth, or from a pesticide-laden factory farm where the farmer is beholden to a corporation whose only motivation is profit, corporations that decide that you won’t get luscious small potatoes because they are somehow offensive to the mechanized system.
When you eat you aren’t just feeding your body. You are feeding your soul.
I encourage you to join me in supporting our local farmers. Visit your local organic farm and your farmers markets. Consider joining a CSA. Get to know the people who grow your food.