Friday, December 19, 2008

Farming a Wedding, Part 2: Brook Farm

We drove down the long road adjacent to rolling pasture and a rickety looking fence on a cold saturday morning just before thanksgiving.  The Brook Farm Project is a farm which sits directly under the imposing and vast cliffs of the Mohonk Preserve in New Paltz, NY.  We decided to visit the farm with the hopes that they might be able to supply some of the food for our wedding.  The farm actually sits on the Mohonk property, and is used by lease.  Using their food would epitomize the local food movement we are trying to support and sustain.

But as noon approached it was difficult to think of anything but the bone chilling cold that had descended on the Hudson Valley the night before.  
The farm runs primarily as a CSA.  As we walked over from our car, we saw folks picking up a reasonable share of the available (and dirty!) produce from large baskets.  To know what a "reasonable" amount was, a large billboard stated how much of which produce was kosher to add to each member's "share".

We saw Dan immediately, wearing a Dickie's bodysuit that looked as if it were made for a Giant, some beat up work gloves and a furry earlap.  I was jealous, freezing in my ripped bluejeans and felted jacket.  Dan is a very tall man with a deep voice and a warm and engaging disposition.  He chatted easily with his members, showing real and honest fondness for each.  We got his attention and began talking with him about our ideas for the wedding.  As he listened to our plan his eyes glowed with excitement, he immediately jumped on board, the season is perfect (late september), the chefs will be elated, Mohonk needs something like this, so they can really get it.  

Dan is a true believer.  As we talked with him we learned just how powerful community can be.  His CSA is not just a food supply service.  Each member must work a commensurate amount to their share value (full share, half share, student share, see the CSA .pdf), engaging the member in the production, as well as the consumption of their produce, meats and eggs.  The ties members have run very deep, forming a community like those of simpler times, yet fully integrated into the modern world.  This is not an anachronism, it is an efficient, economical and virtuous system that works as well now as at any other time in history.  

Listening to Dan talk about farming and the movement for local and organic (or uncertified, but of higher standard, as Brook Farm is) food is infectious.  We left Brook farm still shivering, but with the assurance that they could provide all of the produce necessary for the wedding reception.  

In return, Dan asked Karina and I to come back in the Spring and work on the farm.  A task we are only happy to accomplish.  

The only trick now?  Make sure Mohonk buys produce only from Brook Farm.  This will likely turn out to be the hardest part: getting Mohonk to do what we want.

We'll see.   But at the moment I am still infected by Dan's optimism and belief in the spirit of his community, so I will hold to that for a little longer!


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