Tuesday, April 22, 2008

local food, organic farming.

So we returned from our great New Hampshire Journey.  We did some hiking, some exploring, and some farming.  The trip was terrific.  Northern New Hampshire is a majestic, wild, beautiful place.  

We set out on wednesday evening, arriving late at the Gale River Motel.  It was indeed pleasant and pet friendly, though we had no pets with us.  The purveyor, Kevin (i think) was really nice, and gave us hiking and food suggestions that were helpful and accurate.  I'll save the rest for trip advisor.  

Hiking was fantastic, here is the view of Lafayette from Bald Mountain:

On thursday evening we arrived at the home of farmer Tim Wennrich and his family.  Tim runs Meadowstone Farm.  He agreed to host the remainder of our stay in return for one day of work on the farm.  

Meadowstone is an amazing place.  It is primarily a produce operation, entering a second year of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this term.  In livestock, they have about 100 laying hens, broiler chickens, pigs and the latest addition - 2 goats.  The farm has been Certified Organic for several years, but Tim was telling me that they decided to drop the certification, more on that at a later date. 

The farm sits strategically between the towns of Littleton and Bethlehem, so most of their business is done on the farm stand.  They occasionally range to markets as far as Plymouth (about 40 miles south).  

One thing I noticed outright was the family's close interaction with many different members of the local community.  People came by the farm or the house at various times to talk with Tim about this or that bit of news and business.  We weren't the only ones helping out last friday.  A couple of others dropped by to help out at times, and Lyle, the previous owner of the farm dropped by to see how things were going, and to barter a bit with Tim.

The farmhouse was also alive with small voices, as Tim's wife and a few of her friends opened an absolutely lovely school there when they bought the farm.  It is a modified one-room schoolhouse serving kids from ages 5-14.  One of the first things we saw upon entering the farm friday morning was one of the students chilling out on the yard in front of the house reading a book.

The farm is a great example of everything we need to support in agriculture.  It is a farm that produces clean healthy food, absolutely terrific eggs and meats from healthy happy animals that have rich diets and strong immune systems (read: no hormones, antibiotics, poor living conditions, etc).  It is the centerpiece of a fine example of Permaculture.  Translated, this means that the farm, the schoolhouse and all involved are part of a Local food and culture system that defies all facets of industrial culture.  If we find and support farms such as this, we lift ourselves and those around us.  Our diets are healthier, our minds are sharper, our values are consistently raised, rather then subversively lowered.  Is this too much?  Am I pontificating? 

My answer to both question is simply this:  Try the eggs!  They taste like eggs should taste, but seldom do.  Then remember that the eggs you normally eat come from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, the site of industrial waste that is destroying our eco-systems, antibiotic and hormone laden animals that are slowly eroding our nutritional health, conditions that are ethically abominable for any living creature and decreased profitability for all smaller producers via market aggregation.  Everything about the eggs we normally eat points toward poorer health and less human interaction, away from local integrative culture, via vertically integrated industrial animal production.  

What the industry of mass-produce (including Cal-Organic and Earthbound, the companies that sell most of your organic fair) and CAFO's are hoping is that we all forget what it was like to know our neighbors.  If none of our neighbors produce food (or even cook it, as our organic TV dinners become more popular) then we slowly lose all connection to the sources of our food.  If we lose all connection to these sources, then these sources become less and less value driven, instead they become more and more mass-market driven.  Again, to complete the circle, the less the consumer knows the lower the product quality must be.  Call it Ikea Culture. 

All this came home in my mind while attempting to drive a fence post into frost-hardened earth.  The mind numbing thrusts of the digging pole could not force these inspiring thoughts from my mind.  Why would any of us shop at Wal-Mart?  The quality is just terrible, and the prices are not much less then a farmer's wares at a farm stand.  I am not talking about cities, or large suburban areas, I am talking about the Wal-Mart in Littleton, NH, exactly 4.7 miles away from Meadowstone farm.  Luckily for those that live up there, there is a viable alternative to Wal-Mart, and my hopes for the continued success of Meadowstone and the like are very high.

For us down in the city, there are ever increasing numbers of Farmer's Markets.  NY state has become a pretty good place for a small farm, with farmer's markets appearing in new towns every season, there are CSA's cropping up all around the city.  They fill up fast, so you have to get on it NOW!  JustFood NYC has a great page:  click here for their NYC Map of CSA's in NYC. For another handy map based farm and market locator, Local Harvest is the way to go, click here.

That's all for now, Be well.


Karina said...

So much fun... I highly recommend everyone spend a day working on a farm. It gives you much more respect for the farmers who are producing our food (the right way!).

Daniel said...

It sounds like a great trip Luke and you drew some wonderful insights from it. Way to make it happen.


Gale River Motel & Cottages said...

Luke...thanks for the mention - have just discovered the blogosphere and have created a blog for the Gale River Motel. Was pleased (and surprised) to see that there was already a mention out here - honored that you enjoyed your visit and was great reading more about your trip.