I Heart Farms

  (Soquel, California)
Stories & pictures about real food & real people
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Thanksgiving and Thanks Receiving

Love Apple Farm in Ben Lomond, California

I don't have a farm. I don't plant seeds, I bury them. So naturally ("nature" + "ally"), I am grateful to all of the farmers in my life. They're my heroes.

This year in particular, my appreciation has grown enormously, as I have gotten to be good friends with a handful of farmers, with whom my family have shared many beautiful dinners. These farmers and ranchers have not only supplied me with the meat and vegetables on the table, but they have shown me, through good times and bad, what it means to be a real friend.

Pictured above is Love Apple Farm, owned by my friend—more like a sister—Cynthia Sandberg. Tomorrow my family will join hers, and her crew of helpers who've traveled from around the world to work on the farm. I'll get there early to help with the turkey, which we'll cook using local herbs and shiitake mushrooms. My ex-husband and our daughter, as well as his two young sons, will be there, along with my biggest hero, Bob, who's been my partner for over seventeen years. The little grandson we having been raising for four years is out of town, but he is truly the center of our gratitude to a beneficent universe for his presence in our lives.

Rebecca Thistlethwaite with Logan and Fiona

Another farmer who's become a dear friend is Rebecca Thistlethwaite, of TLC Ranch, with whom I sit weekly (as often as possible) at my dining table, sharing a beer, gossip, links to interesting things on the internet, opinions, and our hearts. If it weren't for Rebecca, I'd never had had the nerve to apply for a fellowship (which neither of us got, but the process of applying provided long-overdue jettisoning of things that hindered my progress in this world). I am intensely grateful for her friendship, and for the time that we get to spend with Princess Fiona (her three-year-old) and Jimbo, the King of the Pigs (as Fiona calls her daddy). Rebecca has also been the source of something new in my life: pastured lamb.

The lamb is from Glennland Farm, and it's from hair sheep, as opposed to wool sheep. It tastes far less gamey and "dead" than any lamb I've ever had, and lo and behold, I've cooked lamb three times in the past month.

Then there is my friendship with the good people at the UCSC Farm. I'm on the board of directors with more than a dozen of the most intelligent, caring, delightful, and fun/ny people…it's been hard lately because of the status of housing for the hard-working student apprentices, but our commitment to honoring their work is unwavering. We've gone to extraordinary efforts to bring support to the program—to the people who go through the program—during these challenges.  

Tractor Ride at UCSC Farm's Harvest Festival 

Another huge reason to be grateful is Local Harvest itself...I've been a fan for seven or eight years, and it's easily my most-recommended link in my twenty years online. Even though I knew the founder, Guillermo, was local (here in Santa Cruz), it somehow took two or three years before we actually met. Now I am happy that he and his wife, Amber, and baby Joaquin, are among my dearest friends—it's nice when your friends are your heroes, isn't it? And heroes because they're living the way I wish everyone could live: sourcing local ingredients, making the most of them (they're both insanely talented cooks), and including so many friends in their large circle of love.

Payet family

I am very much a networker, and it's the joy of my life to introduce good people to other good things and good people. I've been able to do that in abundance this year, and feel that every celebration in my "family" (here in Santa Cruz, most of us have been able to choose family to replace the ones we left back east or somewhere else) is an occasion to feel the gratitude and amazement that comes when one is surrounded with people who grow and cook the food from all the beautiful farms nearby. I can never get over the wealth of talent and love in my circle, or the joy that permeates us all as we bask in yet another day in Paradise.

Lastly, my gratitude at the national, no, planetary, support to elect Barack Obama as the man who can turn this country around and get its wheels out of the ditch…well, nothing comes close to trumping that. Included in that is the realization that all my friends helped is pretty amazing. No matter how rough things are, I am dreaming that we can have Victory Gardens and maybe even Michael Pollan as the Secretary of Agriculture...how cool would that be? "Many hands, light work."

Thank you, good people.

 (Note: the miniaturization effect in a couple of the photos above is produced in Photoshop. Fun!)

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