Essex Farm Note
Week 48, 2016
We served a traditional feast at the farmhouse last night. The groaning table (I love that creepy old phrase) held a 17lb turkey from our friends at Mace Chasm Farm. The bright cranberries were grown by our friend and former Essex Farmer, William McCaffrey. The rest – the stuffing, mashed potatoes, cauliflower, creamed spinach, roasted squash, bread, and gravy – was crafted entirely from Essex Farm dirt and Essex Farmers’ work. Sometimes, when things are not going smoothly, I ask, does it matter? This marathon of constant care, to produce a full diet, year round? The answer that came, last night, was this: It matters, because it is good. Not only food, but also the work.
Yep, the work. It’s time to pay gratitude to the whole team that gets it done, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I run over my usual word count. I’m grateful to Anne Brown, who has been a tremendous force for improvement here in the time she’s been with us. I’ve never met someone as simultaneously kind, smart, and steely-tough as Anne Brown. It’s hard to remember how the farm ran without her, and I don’t like to try. To Ben Christian, who has farming in his bones, deeper than any of us first-generation farmers ever will. We are so grateful for your work, Ben. In an unsure world, here are two thing to count on: If there is a problem with a cow, no matter the hour, Ben will pull in to help fix it. Also, as long as there is an important job to do, Ben will be on it until it is finished. To Barbara Kunzi, who has been on our team since our very first week of distribution. She is steadfast, talented, wise, strong, and incredibly generous with her work. To Jori Wekin and her crew at the Hub on the Hill, for using her courage and energy to boost the farms of our whole region to a more stable plane of existence. To Alex Prediger, who runs the dairy like the cow boss she is, using her good sense, intelligence, and skills, and Morgan Looney, who joined us this fall from his home in Georgia, and has helped keep the cows milked and the calves fed two times a day. To Aidan Cooper, butcher, who joined us last spring. We took a risky bet, bringing on a 16 year old girl, and Aidan was the unlikely jackpot. Jon Christian is the next generation of farming Christians, and, unquestionably, one of our farm’s most valuable players. Jon is in charge of animals this winter; they are in very good hands. To Brandon Jaquish, who runs the shop, for taking our broken things and transforming them into fixed ones. I’m grateful that Brandon’s skills keep the rest of us from messing things up too badly. To Phil Geerdes, who takes great care of our members in New York City. We’re lucky we got this big-hearted tall man to come so far from his glorious Pacific Ocean waves. To Megan Moody, who is here to pitch in when we need it most, and Cameron “Six Pigs” Duhaime, whose knife skills are getting us through these busy weeks in the butcher shop. To Meghan Brooks, who works on the tricky and important coordination of the New York City share. To Tatiana Abatemarco, who helps with the very visible hard work of distribution, both locally and for NYC. To Jenny Linger! Several years ago she pulled into our driveway from Ohio, her car packed with all her belongings, and declared that she’d begin working for us now. She did! So beautifully! This is her last week here… for now. We love you Jenny and wish you and Liam all the best. Extra special thanks in this season of harvest goes to the three people who did the most to make 2016 such a good year for vegetables: Taylor LeFleur, Kirsten Liebl, and Anya Kaplan-Seem. Taylor has worked incredibly hard for two years here, on vegetables, animals, grains, and machinery, and he almost single-handedly kept the draft horses employed this summer. Kirsten ran the vegetable enterprise, always a daunting job, requiring both a crafty sense of strategy and dogged physical tenacity. She and Taylor are both moving on to other farm and food projects soon, but they aren’t going far. We’re so glad they are staying in our community. Anya brought new skills and energy to vegetables and herbs this year, and is the person most responsible for improvements in the way they are presented. Not for nothing, she wrote her master’s thesis in Geography, while farming here full time and then some. Anya, thank you.
Thanks must always go to Mark, my beloved, who keeps this dirty dream pinned firmly to earth, week after week, year after year. And the names I’ve mentioned are only the farmers who are here with us now, at the close of the year. Thank you to all the other farmers who have worked here this year, and for the last thirteen years. To the generous landowners who have made good land available to us, we give you our most sincere thanks.
Finally, the grandest whole-hearted and most important thanks go to every Essex Farm member, for your dedication to Essex Farm and to this food. Growing a full diet, year round, without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizer, is complicated, and difficult, but we believe that it is also transformative, both for the land and for the eaters. We believe in whole food, in season, from healthy dirt. We believe in the benefits of agricultural diversity. We believe in working toward a form of agriculture that is socially just, environmentally beneficial, and economically sustainable. We can do all these things, but only because you believe in them, too. Thank you, members, for your continued support. We can’t wait to grow beautiful food for you in 2017. And that is the news for this Thanks-giving 48th week of 2016.
–Kristin & Mark Kimball