Why Bother Getting To Know Your Farmer?

Why Bother Getting To Know Your Farmer?

This summer I joined a new community. Every Tuesday, for four hours, I volunteer on a farm. I work side by side with other volunteers and employees in exchange for what I would normally buy, fresh produce and eggs. This is no ordinary farm though, it is my farmer’s farm.

        Know Your Farmer

I am fortunate enough to live in a town where there are so many vendors to choose from at our Saturday morning Farmers Market. From May to September I can always find plenty of fresh green lettuce, yellow tomatoes, snow peas, and eggs. But for the last few years, I have favored one particular stand at the market. This couple is not only friendly, but they have an intriguing philosophy that they live by, “Know your farmer better than your doctor.” And so I have come to know them.

First, I invited them over for dinner and I heard their story. They told my husband and me what they believed about raising food, revitalizing soil, and the business of selling their produce.  Farming is not their hobby, it is their way of life. Cautiously, I asked them about volunteering. Their faces broke into smiles. I took that to mean that I was welcome.

Being an unpaid worker on their farm is better than having my own garden. I tried that once or twice. But the amount of labor I poured into coaxing my crooked rows of corn into producing anything edible did not equate into a good use of my limited time. So I gave up my short-lived hobby of gardening in exchange for working on a real farm. This not only allows me to experience feeling dirt under my fingernails and thistle slivers in my thumb, but I walk away with hearty food fit for my dinner table. 

In this new community, I have not only gotten to know my farmers, but their extended family and other like minded people. While harvesting long rows of strawberries, I converse with a retired corporate worker. Weeding the pepper plants I hear about the program a young woman is pursuing in the area of health and wholeness. My boss, another young woman, is training for her first sprint triathlon and she peppers me with questions about triathlons from my past. 

What I have in common with these people is our knowledge of how good food impacts us. We understand the importance of our health. We are aware that our physical and mental wellness is tied directly to the dirt we kneel in. Though we come from different walks of life, our lives intersect on the ground where lettuce and tomatoes grow. 

I don’t get too much of a chance to talk with the actual farmers whose land I work on. They are steps ahead of me feeding the chickens, communicating with wholesale buyers, and tilling old crops under in order to prepare the soil for a new one. But, all I have to do is look up from the patch of ground I am weeding to see that my farmers are committed to a non-rapacious and agrarian way of living. 

Why bother getting to know your farmer? Farmers are worth getting to know since they produce what directly impacts our health and ultimately, our well being.

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