by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL Staff
My dear Farmer,
Moving down the dirt roads, wandering through the fields and woods, stepping over streams and skirting the ponds, I never tire of breathing in the smells of our farms -musty, funky, sometimes sweet and sometimes clean. Animals, vegetables and yes, even the minerals of the soil fill my nose, my head, all the while, creating memories and a fierce desire to protect these places. The sounds of the bellowing cows, the crunch of the snow and ice, the constant cluck and scratch of the layers and the slapping of wind against the plastic of the hoophouses - these noises are soothing and familiar. Looking around me, I drink in the sight of the faded barns, rough hewn fences stretched tight with wire and watch as the land transforms throughout the year, giving up new secrets and burying others in a blanket of snow. The wind hits my face, chilling my cheeks and chin, but then the sun peeks out and warms me from deep within as I look out onto this landscape and feel the awe of being here.
Your calloused hands, tanned arms and even the charming perpetual squint in your eyes speak to what you do. It speaks to the countless times you have bent down to strip your cows or shovel a gutter; to pull a weed or stone from the field or a bale out of the wagons and to the stalls. The sun, the rain, the snow - the land rarely shows you mercy and it will make promises that it doesn’t keep, but you love this place all the more for its mercurial moods and life giving bounty. You coax the plants to grow, curling and unfolding themselves upward. You unfreeze hoses in the winter, slog through mud in the spring and bake under the heavy heat of summer. When “they” say farming isn’t just a job, it is a way of life, you actually know what that means from the top of your head down deep into your belly and to the tips of your toes. And you just do it - day, after day, after day. This strength and determination, even the optimism you embody, it swells my heart and I am proud to call you my farmer, my neighbor, my provider.
Therefore I will make you a promise, one that I will work on day to day. I promise to appreciate and acknowledge the food you grow, remembering that it was grown with with care and purpose; that the animals were raised with dignity and integrity. I will embrace and care for the land you keep, remembering those calloused hands and bent back that toiled. I promise to remember you when I drive down the roads, taking in the beauty of our rural landscape, kept and cared for by all of those before us and if I am careful, thoughtful and long in vision, will be kept by others after we are gone.
I promise to give you my love, dear farmer and to give my love to your farm. Thank you.
Elena Gustavson, is coordinator of the Everyday Chef Food, Cooking and Nutrition program at Rutland Area Farm and Food Link.
originally published in the Rutland Herald, February 2, 2016