It may have been the quickest my heart rate increased in my entire life. No, I wasn’t being chased by a bear or a madman. I was at the mailbox. I had an envelope in my hand addressed to me, from Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.
I had written a letter, fan mail, to Polyface earlier that year. It was decked out in green ink and chicken drawings, expressing my great appreciation for the books Joel has written and love of all things grass farm. It also included my intention to apply for a farm apprenticeship.
Heart in my throat, I ran up the driveway. There were visitors at the house, and I rudely rushed to my room and stared at the letter. I opened it. It was Polyface stationary, embossed green outlines of a tree, cow, pig, chicken, and fish, representing the Farm of Many Faces. I had never traveled south of my home state of New York, but I felt closer to the Shenandoah Valley than ever before.
It was a congenial card, apologizing for the delay in response and encouraging me to apply for the apprenticeship when I was old enough. Signed by my hero himself. I was tickled pinker than a pigaerating pig.
It’s been years since that card. I applied for the apprenticeship and didn’t make it the first time. I went to college and graduated. I got married. I still love farms. And I’ve realized there is more than one type of hero in ecological agriculture than the farmer him (or her) self. Farmers need customers and cheerleaders. They need people willing to prepare food from scratch, fresh from the good Earth with dirt still stuck in the lettuce. They need kitchen folk to bring that raw farm food to a state of delectable glory.
Preparing food is a lost art and looked down upon in the modern day. Why would someone with a college degree, summa cum laude, in a marketable field, ever want to be barefoot and in the kitchen?
Because I’m fighting for farms and for farmers, for better food and giving animals a life I could envy. There’s a war on, folks! Between small, ecological, humane, and big, “efficient,” factory produced food. Food is our connection to earth, second only to air and water. In a disconnected and fragmented age, it helps us put down roots.
I may not be a farmer, but I’m fighting their fight. And it is so rewarding.