03/23/2011 06:58 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Farm Tour: Search for an Authentic Life

Travel, for many, is a search for an authentic cultural experience. Many a trekker, tourist, and seeker have found themselves going to greater lengths at greater cost to find unique and meaningful encounters; a momentary refuge from the day-to-day reality of a modern life. All over the world, lives have been changed because travel provided the precise ingredients, unique and inspiring moments, that catalyze change. This quest for meaningful connection has led me, and countless others, to journey around the world. Now, I realize, the truth is that we don't have to go all that far to engage in, and be transformed by, cultural travel experiences. In fact, now may be as good a time as any to use our travel time and dollars to get to know our neighbors a town or a state over, and to find where authenticity lives in our own communities.

Unlikely conversations with farmers and artisans have left me with eloquently described stretches of U.S. landscape from the Northeast to the Pacific Northwest. These descriptions get tucked away in my mind as a beacon for a different kind of life. I have been so inspired that these conversations have me looking forward (not backward) to a time when our values can guide us into deeper community with our neighbors and our soil. And, if you go searching upstate, you may find farmers like Gavin Johnston, a heritage breed farmer in Westport, New York who thinks that the values guiding a new food movement are a perfect place to start,

Local sustainable farming and local food, and all the values that go with them, are not a fad. They're here to stay. The values and the kind of people that are being drawn to this movement are admirable, interesting, and becoming more and more sexy in all senses of the word. Farms are endless sources of inspiration and interest.

He has said out loud something that I have been feeling but haven't been able to put into words. I just nod in agreement as he continues thoughtfully,

Americans have thrown themselves so far down shallow paths of disconnected work and play, that the farm, is going to more and more represent something authentic.

Maybe it comes off as somewhat Rockwellian to paint Suffolk or Addison County as a pastoral dream that might re-ignite that lost connection -- to work, to community, to land. Yet, connection to land and an inner compass for self-reliance really do seem inherent in the words: farm, farmer, pasture, earth. What other kind of magnetic force is there to better bring us home, to simply seek purer encounters with what lies next door. Wherever I venture, I have found no better gateway to cultivate our human connection -- to land and to people -- than through our food. In this light, the adage, "know your food" may very well be synonymous with, "know your people." It may be because food hits so many different aspects of human existence. It may be because food is so basic. But with each passing day, I believe more and more strongly that people want to work with their hearts, with their souls, with their hands; not simply with their heads. Connecting to our communities and to our land in our search for the "authentic life" is the heart of the seekers' journey. And wherever it takes me, it is well worth the journey.