Daily Life

In February I finally returned to life of the small farmer. I spent two weeks at Northdown Orchard, a vegetable farm in Basingstoke, England. I’ll introduce you to Northdown through a picture of “home life” to begin.

“I love that I spent an entire day outside under the open sky. I harvested and cleaned leeks, making them “look sexy” as Andy put it, and weighed veg for the boxes that will be distributed tomorrow. Now I’m sitting in the living room near the wood burning stove. This is right. I love the worn, unfinished wood floors of this farm house; the bookshelves that are crammed with books about everything related to farming you can imagine; the open kitchen cupboards exposing a mismatched collection of glassware, plates, and an assortment of canned goods; the clothes that hang over the fire to dry; and the simple fabric curtains draped loosely and easily by the windows. I love seeing the light shifting through the day, casting shadows across the kitchen and then smelling an easy fire, hints of pine and a whiff of yeast from the rising bread dough. This life is deeply satisfying. It’s not exactly clean but  it’s not dirty either. It’s neither tidy, nor disorganized. The air is hot while sitting next to the stove, warm when gathered around the table for a meal, and cool in my room before I snuggle into bed. You take off your shoes before coming into the house, but it’s not for fear of dirt. The house exudes a worn comfort. Cats are ignored when, but not exactly welcomed to sit on the counter or table. And to top it all, I was welcomed to Northdown with a feast of roasted lamb shoulder with squash, parsnips, sprouts, rutabaga, beets, potatoes and wine. Goodness, what could be better?”

Northdown Orchard

Here’s a peek into harvest day at Northdown Orchard. It was still winter when I was in Basingstoke, so the harvest wasn’t as abundant as it is during the warmer seasons, but look at what all can be grown when it’s cold!

South Circle Farm

Not just anyone can take an abandoned city lot and turn it into a thriving farm.  I was about to say that Amy Matthews has a magical touch, but I know better.  She is an incredibly hard working and dedicated farmer, intent on making good food accessible to our city.  That’s what it takes.  The more I learn about farming, the more I see that doing it well is more about determination and sweat than dreamily walking through fields while waiting for rain.

South Circle Farm is new, just completing it’s second season.  I was introduced to them at the market- they always have a beautiful display of produce, and I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with them this fall.  It was enlightening to hearing Amy’s story about farming in Indianapolis.  Despite the persistant work of people like her, the city still does not support ventures like South Circle Farm very well.  In fact, last time we spoke, she was afraid of losing the land (and years of manual labor) due to politics.  Indy NEEDS people like Amy- people investing their lives to improve our city.  Truth be told, there are better places to live- better climates, more supportive city governments and more progressive cultures.  I know it’s fun to shop at the market from time to time, but it takes more than that to truly support our local farmers.

Next time you’re at the market, ask the farmers what you can do to support them.