Holding On To Farming
It is that time of year when everything just tastes better from the garden. I love the delicious experience of going to a local farm and eating something I just picked off of the tree or out of the field. That first bite is purely euphoric; the color, taste, texture, and the goodness of it all makes the mouth (and my mind) rejoice. The fact that Mother Nature herself produces exactly what we need to nourish our bodies is nothing short of miraculous. It was my grandparents who showed me the divinity of eating fresh.
As a young child, I spent most weekends with my grandparents, Milt and Laverne, while my parents worked. The drive to their late 1950s ranch style home in Garden Grove would take us directly through Chino Hills cattle ranches of southern California. Upon that first initial whiff of manure, Laverne would say to me, “Smell the cows, Darci?” Indeed, I did! The drive and the scent became extremely familiar. By the time we’d hit the orange and lemon groves the aroma transitioned into the tangy smell of citrus.
On Saturday mornings my grandparents and I would head out to the various local farm stands for fresh produce. The first stop was always for strawberries at the field a block from their home where the farmer would guide me through the process of picking my own strawberries. I, of course, insisted on validating each experience with a taste test. During the afternoon, we would harvest avocados from the huge trees in my grandparent’s backyard. I’d carry my beautiful green avocados into their back porch and exchange the previous week’s avocados, which we ate, for the newly picked ones which would sit to ripen.
My favorite thing to do with my grandparents on Saturday night was to visit Walter and Cordelia Knott’s Berry Farm. We would dine at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. It was in Cordelia’s restaurant that I gained my insatiable craving for the farm’s boysenberries. Mrs. Knott turned those berries into jam, jelly, syrup, and pie—and I loved them all! After dinner we’d go into the Knott’s live bee exhibit and watch the bees work their way madly through the honeycomb.
I feel fortunate to have had these heavenly experiences with farmers and food because farming in America doesn’t look quite the way that it used to. Urban development is slowly steamrolling over cities agriculture belts. Local sustainability has been minimized, and reliance has been placed upon the shoulders of large growers. Awakening to a new generation of thinking are young, educated individuals willing to become farmers. Existing farmers are elated. Their fight to avoid being pushed out or bought out is real. But the movement toward the reunion of town and country is evident by increased support and the spending of dollars on ‘locally grown’. Call it a trend, but the drive toward reviving the farm is alive. And how the farmers plan to hold on to farming is a community discussion.
“There are in reality not only, as is so constantly assumed, two alternatives—town life and country life—but a third alternative, in which all the advantages of the most energetic and active town life, with all the beauty and delight of the country, may be secured in perfect combination.” - Ebenezer Howard, 1898
The Summer Issue of Etched takes a look across the fields of the southwest. From small farms and farmers markets to heritage crops and large producers, you will meet the individuals who literally are putting food on your tables. The beekeeper, the herb grower, the rancher, the native crop owner, all have a place in the Summer Issue of Etched—and in our lives.
Driving home from a hike in Zion National Park, I stopped at a farm stand in Rockville. Displayed in front of the modest orchard were brightly colored, “organically grown,” apricots and the greenest of apples. I bagged all of my favorites and left my money in the ‘honor system’ can. While standing there, I bit into an apricot. The warmth of the sun had softened the fruit as if it were out of a freshly baked pie. The moment and flavor, euphoric. Consider when you sit down to dinner, where your food comes from. Perhaps you, too, will discover the taste of farming’s goodness.
Darci - Editor in Chief