Did you ever get a phone call from a friend who said something along the lines of, “You have to drop everything and come over.” And did you drop everything? Usually not. I mean I generally can’t drop everything without feeling overwhelming guilt over what won’t get done if I go and do something else. I tend to have myself booked pretty tightly, and when I don’t, I relish that time to do something relaxing, like soak in a tub, or write a blog entry.
Last week I got an email from my friend Andrea (remember, her name has been changed), who has moved to Center County, Pennsylvania. She is just getting acclimated to her surroundings, and looking for places to purchase grass-fed raw milk, grass-fed meats, and soy-free eggs. She was going on a farm tour last Saturday, and in her email said that I should drop everything and drive out there to do this tour with her. After some deliberation and discussion, off we went to Center County.
The Pennsylvania Association for hosted this amazing event that brought us to a variety of farms run by people from many backgrounds, from artist to Amish. One goal of this tour is to put the consumer in direct contact with the producer, and judging by the number of different people we saw at the farms last Saturday, PASA was quite successful. Another goal seemed to be promoting producer transparency. Many of the farmers lead tours of their facilities; we were free to take pictures; we were free to ask questions, all of which were dutifully answered.
For the most part, I was familiar with what the farmers were doing, although the farmers we work with are Mennonite, and these farmers are Amish. There is something wonderful about basking in the glow of someone’s happiness, and that is what I felt. These farmers were excited and joyous to share what they do with the public. As basic “white-bread” Americans, we tend to look at anything that is different with a sense of misgiving. The Amish are different. Buying food directly from a farm is different. Therefore people don’t trust the food. I have a colleague that will only eat white eggs that were purchased in a grocery store, and while I tease her about it, I am really baffled by this ideology that is prevalent among Americans.
One farm we visited, Ecosophy, was incredible. The owner, Warren Leitzel, is an artist/farmer, who has taken his creative mind and applied it to creating sustainable farming methods. I was impressed by his innovations, from the solar dehydrator to the mushroom arbor. Part of why I was so impressed was that everything we saw on the farm had functionality as well as aesthetic value. There was nothing that was an “eye-sore.” From the smokehouse to the chicken coop, each building incorporated architectural details that made sense as part of a larger design. The main product from the farm is garlic, which is delicious.
I hope other states are doing this sort of thing. I know that locally there is a bike tour of local farms, but nothing that includes car traffic. Let’s face it, not everyone can bike 50 miles in a day. And personally the way people drive around here, and with how narrow the roads are, I wouldn’t want to include my children on such an adventure. I’d be a nervous wreck the whole time. Kudos to PASA for sponsoring this event. It was a wonderful time!