Farming in My Kitchen: Resonance with the Real Thing

Rosemary and Harsch Pot

I raise crops: pots of rosemary, parsley and cilantro. I tend livestock: kefir, kombucha, the microorganisms currently fermenting a pot of beets.

I know — nothing to impress a real farmer. But in addition to the usual benefits — providing quality, fresh ingredients — farming in my kitchen puts me in touch with the reality that I eat living beings. These plants and creatures are alive. They have their own needs, goals, likes and dislikes. If I get interested in them and look out for their quality of life, then I am rewarded with an abundance of nutrients, flavors and colors. If I do not care for them well, I diminish my own harvest.

Putting myself in a rhythm of care in this way also helps raise my awareness of what actual farmers do. When we get no rain for weeks on end, I wonder about the vegetables in the fields. When I cook my eggs in butter, I consider my good fortune — somebody else gathered those eggs and milked the cow for me.

Most of the time, I purchase produce, meats and dairy directly from local farmers. One of these farmers hosts occasional picnics at the farm. Customers and neighboring farm families gather to share a meal and an afternoon. A tour of the farm at the last picnic revealed a stroke of genius: piglets old enough to be weaned spent their days in an outdoor pen. There was a white tarp high over the top to keep the little pigs out of direct sun. TheĀ  sides were open to the air with simple wire fencing to keep the pigs inside. The bottom was open to the grass. One end was attached to a tractor. After the piglets had been in the same spot for long enough to rough up the grass and fill it with pig droppings, the whole lot was pulled forward one pen length. The pen had a new bottom, the pigs were once again on clean grass, and the old grass had a chance to recover.

When visitors walked up to the sides of the pen, the little pigs ran over to say hello or see what we had to eat or whatever goes on in a little pig’s mind. The pen was large enough that they could move around comfortably. To me, they looked like a bunch of puppies or kittens cheerfully and companionably playing. It was a delight to see and I spent several minutes watching them. “Enjoy your summer, guys. You’ll make wonderful bacon.”

Continuing on the farm tour, we saw cows nearby in an open field where calves played near their mothers. The farmer knew the personalities of his cows and chose the gentlest one for city folks to try to milk. I looked around the fields and heard the chorus of crickets and other insects, saw the birds swooping to catch the bugs. A farm like this allows dignity: for the hardworking family who runs it, for the animals who live good lives before harvest, for customers like me who do not farm and would like to eat well without exploiting others.

What about you?

Do you “farm” in your own kitchen?

Do you work on a real farm?

Anything you’d like to share with us “kitchen farmers”?

Mar 08

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