On September 13, my sweetheart Amber and I left Santa Cruz, CA for a two week long trip across the southwestern United States. We nicknamed the trip "Bike2Barn 2007", since we traveled on a motorcycle, stopping to visit Localharvest member farms along the way. We had many reasons for taking this trip, including the desire to take an adventurous vacation, visit farms, make new friends, learn about the land, and eat good food.
Motivation Number One was to meet some of the farmers with whom I work. After years of interacting with most of our members only via the website, phone, and email, I wanted to meet more of the folks who grow the food that we promote. I had many questions. Why did they start farming? Who taught them? What gives them motivation? Are they successful? How is climate change affecting the productivity of their farms? We wanted to know what they all had in common, and where they differed. We traveled widely and spent time with many farmers, recording our experiences and photographs in the LocalHarvest Blog.
It surprised us how different each farm was from the next. A couple of farms mainly let nature take care of nature, had a soft touch, and fostered very relaxed and free-flowing working environments. Other farmers took a different approach, running tightly engineered and streamlined professional operations. While many farms are succeeding, some even having long waiting lists of customers, we found others that are struggling and might not survive for long.
We visited farms that are being forced to cut their water usage substantially due to drought, and one other whose entire crop of tomatoes failed because of too much rain. After visiting an animal rescue farm, owned by a woman who will work hard to save the life of just one cow, we visited a cattle ranch, where we ate big, juicy hamburgers. The differences went on and on.
One commonality was the warmth of the farmers. As I already knew, these are "real" farmers, and not impersonal agribusinesses detached from the environment and communities that they affect. These farmers are business people with dirty, callused hands. They wear big straw hats, and are directly affected by both the bottom line of their operations and the health of their land and communities. Each and every farmer we met was determined, hard-working, and motivated to bring their community good, naturally grown food, and to care for their environment. We were happy to be among the company of such solid, generous people.
An unexpected bonus to the trip was the heaps of positive feedback that we received about LocalHarvest's work. Every farmer we met was grateful for the business that we create for them. It was encouraging to hear the farmers' stories of LocalHarvest-generated business and other contacts, and very rewarding to watch LocalHarvest orders being shipped out from a couple of farms.
We hope to continue the tradition of Bike2Barn in months and years to come, traveling to visit farmers that have become friends, and seeking out new farmers to meet and learn from. Continue to check the blog from time to time, and keep up with our adventures!
Visit our travel journal in the LocalHarvest Blog.