Despite the March snow I can smell spring and taste peas. The daffodils, tulips, garlic and other bulbs are pushing through the surface reaching for the sky. I wish I could till my field, but it’s too wet. Instead, I focus on inside tasks like seeding, organizing piles, building stuff in the shop, marketing, networking and communicating on the Internet. And when all that isn’t enough, I cook. Today, it’s venison chili. First, I toast the Black Montana barley and add it to a pot of chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil.
Since I returned to the Treasure Valley and started farming, the local food movement has blown up. I feel very lucky. In 2004 when I said, “I have a small CSA farm,” people looked at me like I was speaking Spanish. “What’s that?” people would ask. Back then I had the privilege and burden of being the first person to define this concept for a huge number of folks. Our literature for the farm was like a little booklet stuffed full of information about our farm and a special section on why people should care about local farms.
Now I have a small quarter sheet flier on City Gardens and nearly everyone has heard of Community Supported Agriculture. I don’t have to explain. Wow, this is great! So I thought.
Back when we started, we used door hangers to find our first CSA members. We put on public events, basically we directly marketed our stuff. Farmer and eater met and knew each other. This we called local. Now local is such a buzz word it rolls off the tongue of the best intentioned (liberally, just like “green”). Tons of non-farmers are part of the movement now, not as eaters like in the past, but as advocates or middlemen. ( I often think if all these people joined a CSA it wouldn’t be so hard to find members or sell out at market).
These people want to organize us farmers. You see, we are toothless hill people who can’t speak to Americans like the well-heeled gorgeously dressed middlemen who now want to speak for us. In fact, we farmers are now suspects in mass deception. We are evil witches trying to convince the public we are local and organic when we may not really be. We clearly need these well spoken office people to help clear up this malignant group of ne’re do wells. We need an office full of these people keeping us honest and reassuring the public that these great watchdogs are on duty. And most importantly they need to be paid more than us.
Once the barely comes to a boil, turn down and let simmer.
I’ve spent the last 8 years toiling in the dirt trying to make a living. It ain’t easy. I have worked my ass off to grow my farm to the point where I am a full-time farmer with a part-time job. Unlike Guy Hand, who claims not to have an agenda, I have an agenda. It’s not a point of view that changes depending on what audience I’m speaking to. I came to farming because I felt the industrial world was a wasteland of toxic politics and deadly poisons. Just walk down to the Capital any day this week and ask about the Albertson’s Foundation head and Tom Luna. It’s been this way a very long time.
I farm because my agenda is not to live like we have in the past. Part of that is (small o) organic and the other is to do what I say and believe. The idea of a certifying agency is offensive and part of the world I left years ago. I don’t care what everyone else does, regulate the hell out of yourselves. This will drive the cost up. And what I hear is the price at the market needs to come down. This might come as a surprise to our BMW driving fans, but the working teachers, real estate agents, musicians, state employee… are saying the price needs to come down. This is why I don’t pay for those expensive certifications, not because I’m trying to pull one over on the T.V. addicted shopper that doesn’t have time to get to know the name of their farmer.
What I don’t understand is how the farmer became the bad guy. Seems to me this is media making noise over nothing.
Now, I’ll saute the venison sausage. And stick to cooking.
— Farmer Marty