Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Yesterday, Rowan's school came to visit. She goes to Wellspring, an extremely small private school, and so the visit only involved six people. And three of them were teachers.
A main theme at Wellspring this year is food production, and it spans several classes. In one class they are reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and Eating Animals. In science they are discussing environmental impacts of agribusiness. In my class we are studying Cesar Chavez, the Farmworker's movement and the interface of Mexican immigration and American agriculture. Wellspring recently got a grant from the Farm to School program to hire a "farm to school co-ordinator," and that lady came along as well. I'm not totally sure what she does but it's about food.
The school decided to organize an outing to my farm to provide an illustration of alternative food production. I am not a commercial farm, I'm just a homesteader, and obviously this way of producing one's food isn't open to everyone. It wasn't supposed to be a proselytizing visit; just an educational example.
At first I was a little nervous - this is the absolute worst time of year for me to show off all my home-produced bounty. There just isn't any. I have about six quarts of various preserves left. The chest freezer is just about empty. The garden is bare dirt (actually, I've done quite a bit of planting, but it doesn't show. There's forty row-feet of potatoes in the picture below.).
The orchard looks like a bunch of tiny little sticks, and there are no bees in the hives. No goat's milk or cheese to try yet. But then I remembered - I have newborn baby goats! Nobody's going to care about immature fruit trees when they could be cuddling tiny baby goats!
And nobody did. The teenagers were all about petting cute animals - goats, ponies - and gawking at the enormous scary pig. The teachers were the only ones with questions - especially the farm-to-school lady. After the tour was over, she said "clearly, farming is a lot of work. Why do you do it?"
I was slightly taken aback, until I remembered she was most likely asking for the benefit of the kids. So I just told her the truth - when I moved up here, I was just motivated by the thought of my kids being able to enjoy animals and nature the way I did as a kid. I just wanted them to be able to cuddle cute baby goats and watch eggs hatching. But recently, as I've become more enlightened about the issues surrounding modern food production, I wanted to disassociate myself (insofar as possible) from the ethical and environmental tragedies involved. I want to provide my kids with nutritionally superior food. I want to feel good about the food I eat. It doesn't hurt that I've slashed the food budget in half. And - not to get into it too far - I am relatively pessimistic about the medium to long term future, and I want to make sure my kids know how to feed themselves.
"Those are good reasons," she said. The teenagers weren't listening. They were still cooing over the goats and teasing each other about the amount of animal poop on their shoes.
And I sold three dozen eggs. One to each teacher!