Mott Family Farm

  (Salesville, Ohio)
Choosing the Simple Life
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Back to My Roots

If I look just two generations back, I'd find my roots planted firmly on a farm. My grandfather left Japan in the early 1900's, sold into slavery to South America. Through an amazing chain of events he eventually made his way (escaped) to Orange County, California back when it was still orange groves and farmland. He was a successful berry grower alongside neighbor Mr. Knott, of the now-famous Knott's Berry Farm. When the depression hit, he moved his wife and newborn son (my father) to farmland outside of Chicago, growing for a Japanese landlord and Asian markets. He eventually grew peppermint and spearmint for entrepreneurs such as Mr. Wrigley and was savvy enough to eventually purchase his own piece of Indiana soil. During World War II, his land and family were "under surveillance" by the US government, but because of the good word of neighbors and the white community around them, they did not lose their farm or possessions, as did their West Coast Japanese cousins. 

Today, my uncle still lives and farms on that land--and my cousin, Beth, grows organically and sells at the Chicago Green City Market. And I realize that even though I was raised in the city and love the city, I am essentially truly returning to my roots as we make our living off the land. I hope that one day my grandchildren would tell such grand, illustrious stories as I have been able to tell from generations past.


To Market To Market

I must share with you another of our intern's delightful blog entries. She's living life to the fullest with us on the farm, and is giftedly able to put it in words. Here's one to describe our market experiences:

"To Market To Market" by Caroline Hiteshew

 I feel in my element at the farmers markets these days. I have a hunch that I'm better at selling vegetables than I am at growing them: a different kind of green thumb altogether.

On Saturdays the Motts peddle their wares at the Farmers at Firehouse market run by Slow Food, located in the gritty Strip District of Pittsburgh. The neighborhood has an industrial, historical vibe, most palpable at 7AM as we role into town, down deserted streets in our blue Sprinter Van. As the sun rises, the streets awaken to reveal a thriving local food economy occupying converted-warehouse spaces. Ethnic groceries sit comfortably beside upscale cafes, specialty Italian groceries stock olive oil by the gallon, the Mexican grocer sells real corn tortillas so fresh they're still hot, the Greek grocery boasts dried figs that put the Fig Newton on the same level as a McDonalds chicken nugget. The scene overwhelming pummels all five senses with an authenticity that, with the increasing commercialization of it storefronts, is hard to find in New York City these days.

But all of that must be pushed to the back of the mind for the morning. Just down Penn Avenue, in a space reserved for parked cars on the other six days of the week, a bell rings at 9 AM and the farmers at Firehouse are off to the races. Firehouse customers are known for their serious commitment to local, organic food and their willingness to rise early and pay a premium for it. Regulars arrive as early as 8:30, peruse their options, and line up before the 9 o'clock bell signaling the beginning of the market. As the only organic fruit vendors, we're guaranteed to have a long line if peaches or berries are out on our tables. We have no choice but to be ready.

I have come to relish the adrenaline rush of 10 people simultaneously demanding garlic flavor expertise, change for their 20 dollar bill, an exact pound of French fingerling potatoes. I love chatting with the customers, hearing their stories and imparting recipe ideas, or encouraging them to try a new variety of onion. I especially love handing out peach samples and therefore invariable selling a pound of peaches that wouldn't otherwise be sold. You see, our peaches are the ugly ducklings of the peach world: black spotted, funky shapes on the outside, but in your mouth they flower into beautiful swans of flavor. So the market place becomes a kind of educational setting, where people are relearning what real food looks like, feels like, and most importantly, tastes like. Those tiny black spots, it turns out, are the result of our lack of a fungicidal spray program. The spots don't penetrate the skin and are caused by a bacteria or fungus that is harmless to humans. With peaches consistently making the "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables most laden with pesticides, I would choose harmless fungus over fungicide any day.

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