During the hard times on the farm, I sometimes look back and question how I got here and why didn’t someone in the mental health profession intervene? I grew up in
Don't get me wrong, I worked hard and made sacrifices that other people my age did not. Nevertheless, when I reflect upon my youthful goals to that of today’s youth, I was superficial and frivolous in my pursuits and ideals. Some of today's youth are more altruistic and look upon our society’s thirst for wealth as perversion itself. Think "Occupy Wall Street,". There is no moral high ground anymore. It is not expected or delivered from our political leaders, corporate leaders or others. The bankers are more like Mr. Potter, then George Bailey in "It’s a Wonderful Life". Greed is not good, honesty is rare and public service has turned into ugly words. Today's youth are looking at themselves as anti-materialistic, as if existence in and of itself is all that is needed. I understand that minimalist attitude.
Once I finished with my education, I usually worked two jobs. By the time, I got a very demanding job I was the typical workaholic yuppie. I worked six-day weeks, ten to twelve hour days, all for those goals I had set so long ago. I justified all my actions because I had to achieve. Materialistic as those goals were, I did not think or know it until I was in my forties. What free time I did have I spent cooking and growing vegetables in a small garden.
What I did not realize was early on there were other forces at work pushing me in the direction of growing. With all the years that my wife and I dated added to the years that we were married, my father and father in-law always had gardens going. My in-laws also raised layers for eggs and broilers. Each year it seemed my father-in-law would make his garden bigger. Once he retired, the garden looked huge. During my mid-twenties and some of my thirties, growing a truck garden was still the furthest from my mind. Summer after summer when we visited my in-laws, my wife’s father was always in the garden. He always looked content, no matter the time of day, temperature or humidity. There just seemed to be this Zen-like peace in the man. More than a couple of times, as the house expanded with grandkids and great-grand kids he was in the garden. I came to see this as his oasis in the middle of all the chaos and cacophony.
My wife and I got to a point in our lives when we needed to change our diet toward healthier foods. We started eating healthy and part of that was learning what was beneficial. The more we learned about trace amounts of carcinogenic chemicals in our fruits and vegetables the more we started growing our own food with organic methods, buying from local butchers and farms. We learned that the IFC was importing fruits and vegetables that had trace amounts of chemicals that were banned for use in the US. Growing small eventually led to thirteen years of discussing and planning growing on a larger scale.
With the passing of my wife's father, came cleaning out his library. He was a very stoic man; he could have played poker for a living if he wanted, his behavior and expression rarely changing. He laughed and enjoyed humor but for the most part, he was a quiet, reserved individual. When we obtained organic certification, he was the most animated I had ever seen. I thought it uncharacteristic but there was a lot I did not know about the man at that time.
Going through his library we got all the books, papers, articles, magazines and any other literature dealing with organic growing. He had original books from J.R. Rodale and some of the first extension articles from the
I can still see his face when he came into the house and we had our "Certified Organic" sign hanging up on the wall. We were proud of it, but he took a sense of pride that escaped us all. That is until we found his organic material and realized just how knowledgeable he was. In talking to him over the years, since we purchased the farm, it always struck me how in-depth his questions were about growing. Not a year went by without my father-in-law coming up during the growing season, taking a tour of the garden and checking on the progress of our free-range organic layers. He would have loved the fact that we started raising organic broilers. We would walk the entire garden, the vegetables, the fruits and the resting areas the whole time discussing our land use practices, infestations, viral and bacterial problems and weeding. He was one of the biggest proponents of fire weeding. He hated weeds with a passion and I admired that greatly in him.
I must have spent about twenty-five summers watching this man tend his garden. I was able to make some very fresh salsa and other dishes from that garden. I remember mostly the look of satisfaction and contentedness on his face as he made his way back to the house, soaked in sweat and covered in dirt, carrying whatever tool it was he had used or the largess he harvested.
Without really knowing I think all those years watching him toil but loving every minute of what he was doing had a profound affect on me. I still question my sanity and skills but with every bad thing that comes along something good usually follows. God never closes a door without opening a window. We knew it was going to be hard, that failure was more likely than success but there is something about what we do that makes us continue, for now. Perhaps it is in our heredity.
Buy Local: Have you ever heard of a vegetable, fruit or meat recall for your local farmer or butcher?
P.S. Please help http://www.savenicksorganicfarm.org/