Several months ago I began to put into motion my plan for summer. There’s no point in being self-employed, I figured, unless one exploits the full range of one’s freedom from the constraints of slave labor. To my end, this manifested in an idea to take most of the summer off. Being inside while it’s shorts-wearing, pool-dipping weather outside has always been a form of torture for me; this year, I resolved to remedy it. Winter and spring saw a full plate of new business, and while I wasn’t flush, I also wasn’t destitute, and it wasn’t a hard choice to give up a few new projects for the chance at a couple month of relaxation and travel.
The big travel plans are coming up: the two of us are taking 17 days in July to drive a lopsided circle around the Great Lakes. This left June unscheduled, a gap I quickly plugged with another week-long trip to the farm.
Despite its definitiveness, “the farm” does not refer to one particular place. Two years ago it was the Wormfarm, whose CSA we were a member of (and where, a year earlier, we got engaged). Three years before that, it was the land of some old family friends in Brown County, Indiana. This year, I offered my
able adequate muscles to any member farm of Home Grown Wisconsin, the wonderful CSA we currently belong to. Doug of Meadowbrook Farms took the bait, resulting in my spending four tremendously fulfilling days this past week as their farmhand.
Suffice it to say, the experience was just what I wanted, and If I can at all make it happen, I’ll be going back again later this summer. It’ll certainly be at least an annual thing.
I haven’t, until now, stepped back to work out what it is that draws me there. It’s always seemed naturally satisfying. The fresh air, the open sky, the remoteness, the physical labor with a purpose — it all congeals into a sublimity that I rarely ever find living in the city. Yet, as I talk with people about it, I’m finding it necessary to defend the trip. This apparently isn’t everyone’s cup of compost tea.
For me, I think it comes down to two things. One ties into my indecisiveness. The variety of experience that makes urban areas so appealing is the very feature makes them unhealthy for the perpetually choice-anxious. I really do love the city for all the new things I get to try on a daily basis, but it can be exhausting. The country excises all that, and while I may not be able to survive on a monoculture diet year-round, for a week it’s the perfect kind of detox.
The other part is my more recent interest in the lineage of food, specifically the food I eat. No question this is borne from the interest in local food that’s running through the current zeitgeist. For whatever reason, it lit a spark in my brain, leading directly to our growing a garden, joining a CSA, patronizing farmers markets and my asking the occasional restaurant owner or waiter about the genesis of the ingredients in the meal before us. The next logical step for me was a backwards one in the chain, to witness firsthand — and participate in — the planting and harvesting of these foods.
I know that I’m close to over-romanticizing the agrarian lifestyle, while I continue enjoy the privileges of being a full-blooded cityboy. I’m not trying to do that; I know I’m way too much of a pansy to be a farmer. But those privileges are built on layers of industry we don’t often see; it’s simply my responsibility to, at the very least, be cognizant of how they work.