Sunday, April 24, 2011

Discussions for The Dirty Life (Question #3 and 4)

We are discussing The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. Please feel free to jump right in!

Question #3
Mark and Kristin start a farm that aims to provide a whole diet for their year-round members. 
If a farm in your area did the same thing, would you become a member? 
How would it change the way you cook and eat?

Question #4
The first year on Essex Farm was full of trial and error. Kristin had never farmed before and much of her knowledge came from her neighbors and from books. 
In what ways did all of the mishaps shape Kristin and change her perspective?

Further discussions:


dreama kattenbraker said...

This book is a testament to hard work, focus, and dedication to sustainable farming. I savored reading it like coming to a "feast" of learning. If it were required reading for high school, our population may begin to understand the importance of todays healthy farmers. Can you tell I give it the highest marks?? Love it!

Anonymous said...

Question 3:
I love the concept of a year round, whole diet CSA. Our local CSA runs mid April through first heavy freeze, which was the first week of December in 2010.

I know I have changed the way I cook since we joined our local CSA. The afternoon of the delivery is like Christmas - we never know what will arrive in our bag, other than fresh eggs. Organic home-baked goods are available for purchase, as well as CSA honey, jellies, beef, and chicken. I only cook in season produce now. And plan my dishes around what is available from the CSA or our own small garden.

Kerani said...

The CSA that I currently belong to offers food year round. (Not all the same food - sweet potatoes and the various grains, plus products that used to be pig *g* are about all that appears every week.) However, this CSA draws from all over the state, so there are far more options than are available if just one farm was the source of everything.

I don't think "everything from one place" is the best ideal. I think that not every plot of land is good for everything. I think farmers should be able to tailor their work to their goals (steady work year round or significant periods with no really work neccessary) without feeling like they're failing to provide. Mark and Kristin each had their strengths - if each had married a person with other strengths, their farm would have been different, I think.

I think the best line in the book is the one where Kristin talks about coming to terms with death and rot. The blight of frost and the failure of new things to thrive are as integral a part of farming, imo, as the bloom of spring and the joy of sprouts and fuzzy chicks. I don't think that the year-round supply of fresh veggies makes us lose an understanding of the bounty of spring; rather, I think that in an excess of abundance we forget the power and importance of death.

Which, for me, brings us back to the conflict between supplying food cheaply and supplying it in the ways we've taken to calling 'sustainable'. Sure, us-fat-&-sassy upper-middle-class types who scowl at rain clouds and don't like to think about slaughterhouses may need a wake-up to remember the other side of luxury is want. But for many people - the guy standing in the rain, waiting on the bus, to go to his second part-time job...does he need schooling in appreciation of the little things in life? I am hesitant to tell him that he needs to spend his spare time & money gardening, or buying from a CSA, because he would get a better understanding of birth & decay from it.

*sigh* If it were easy to figure this out, someone else would have already done so.

Annie, Morning Joy Farm said...

I dream of offering a complete diet CSA to our customers, but with three children under the age of three...well, we're doing what we can right now. My husband is my voice of reason and tones down my "let's do it all right now" approach. I love the fully invested nature of the complete CSA, for both the farmer and the member. That was what surprised me when we started our CSA. The philosophy is to put the farmer's face on the food, but for us, it put the customer's face on what we were raising. We knew who was waiting for which items, which kids would be eating the cherry tomatoes, for example. I love that!!

I grew up on a farm and I guess I learned at an early age that things never turn out the way you think they will. The cows will get out, you'll drop the egg bucket, the pittman will break on the mower, etc. But along with that are the "happy accidents" where it works out better than you thought it would. Kristin talks often about how hard they worked, that drive to get everything done but not getting it done. I felt her despair when they had to plow down the weedy crops. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and start over and that is so difficult when you've worked so hard!!

L0rdsServant said...

Ah! Sorry, I'm so behind on the questions. You know, it's May and all...

If we weren't already raising our own vegetables, poultry, beef, eggs, and milk I'd like to think we'd join a CSA. In actuality, we've got four little ones and I know we wouldn't be able to afford it, based on the costs 9-month(ish) CSA farms around us. That's a large part of why we wanted to do this ourselves. It's a tragic dilemma when people in this country purchase food that is essentially poisoning their bodies simply because they either can't afford to buy 100% organic all the time, or they don't have the knowledge to help themselves. Books such as a dirty life are helping to turn the tide to a new (although old) way of raising food in this country, as well as instilling confidence and the desire for some self-sustainability in individuals and families.

Mishaps are in all walks of life, but they seem to come in multiples in rural life. I think Kristin, whether meaning to or not, held on to a rough idea of what she expected would happen. In farming, you often have a plan that you not only have to bend to, but sometimes you need to yield completely. You can expect certain things, but plan as you may, your days will have more than a fair share of topsy-turvy. The trick is to take a breath and keep on going, which Kristin did quite well. I also completely agree with Annie about Kristin's experience with happy accidents. How often are we completely taken aback by how something plays out? Gotta love farming!

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