Sunday, June 7, 2009, annual Spring Clean Up Day at Katchkie Farm and we invite friends, clients, family and neighbors to join and volunteer to plant in our Sylvia Center garden, clear the woodland trail or paint new birdhouses. A simple concept but 'dig deeper' and it is a day filled with stories of personal journeys and political significance.
The longing and intense interest to visit a farm is something I sense whenever I speak with people (from all facets of my life) about Katchkie Farm. The farm is a mythical and enticing entity, romanticized by city dwellers, many with farm roots somewhere in the last generation or two. Some actually make the trip and visit, while others keep hoping to.
Those without direct farm history are simply mesmerized by the thought of seeing where their food comes from and the wholesomeness of being on a farm. There is something so basic about this environment. Far from the maddening urban crowd, there is purposefulness and simple beauty.
For many of our Latino co-workers, the farm experience is not a generation, but a continent away. The connections to the land have been lost in transition and a day at Katchkie Farm is a reconnection with universal roots. The families that arrive savor every moment. Young boys grab fishing poles and head to the pond. (I bemoan the fact that I cannot speak Spanish.)
The abundance of fields filled with produce is always startling and magnificent. There is richness in the density of the rows, delight in the flavors of the crops and the unlimited possibilities of what can be done with all this food. It is bountiful and inspiring. And to think that only a few generations ago, so many more of us were directly connected to the source of our food. Today, going to a farm is a special event.
Clean up day includes planting vegetables and flowers in our children's garden - the focal point of the Sylvia Center program and the crown jewel of our farm. This week, and throughout the summer, we will welcome dozens of children from both neighboring communities as well as New York City. In their few hours on the farm, they will plant and harvest spring crops. These vegetables will be the ingredients they use to cook their lunch in the field house. They will take away recipes and new ideas. As we tour the garden together, they will sample herbs and other treats they probably have never seen, no less tasted, before. The looks on some of the faces will be priceless. One generation handing down seeds to another; the well-fed sharing the gift of food with the less fortunate. The joy goes both ways.
While we look at the farm and savor its bounty with privilege and passion, there are members of our community who never come to a farm and or share this quality of food. For far too many Americans, meals are comprised of cheap processed industrial food and access to healthy delicious food is a privilege they cannot earn.
I stand in the fields and wonder why this access is a privilege and not a right. I wonder how we as a society accept the inequities and absurdities of our food system - be it the frustrations of small scale farmers, the struggles of producers, the giant carbon footprint of our agricultural system and the health disaster it has inflicted upon our children.
On a national level, we have watched one President declare how much he hated broccoli and another embrace the world of fast food. Food is an indicator of a culture - it is the window into its values. We have a nation hungry to go to the farm and connect with life affirming experiences and another part of our nation simply hungry.
Finally, we have a President, and in NYS, a Governor, who understand that what we put into our bodies has a profound effect on how we feel and act. It is an opportunity to change the status quo - when there is movement on a grassroots level that is supported from the top - we know the time is 'ripe'. The impact of seeing Michelle Obama plant a vegetable garden at the White House sends a powerful message. There is something very important about where food comes from and fresh food is good food.
And if it is good for the First Family, then it is good for all families.