Meditations

Coming from farmers, I will be a farmer.


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My Great Grandmother's barn

This is my first post on foodists.ca so if you are interested, a little bit about me. I come from farmers. Unknown generations of them. As far back as our genealogy has been compiled, there are farmers and ranchers. Ireland, Denmark, Hungary, Canada and the United States. I am a city boy, but I have lived on the farm and I will return there.

As an urban foodist now long removed from the farm I am amazed and energized by the current re-awakening. All of the latest memes in food – local, seasonal, organic, provenance – are enjoying a rhizomatic re-emergence. New potatoes, small and fresh, but linked to a history and tradition never killed, just gone underground. Hidden from view by the nightmares of agricorp and industrial madness.

My great-grand parents were blown out of Gull Lake, Saskatchewan during the Dustbowl of the thirties. They homesteaded again much further north in the fertile triangle of land where the Vermillion River empties into the North Saskatchewan.

Conversations with my Grandmother (now 92) have revealed a family tradition not only of local, seasonal and organic but of clear provenance as well. In fact 70 years ago my family produced 95 percent of what they ate.

Vegetables, fruit, berries, and grains, all coaxed from the prairie dirt during the short summer season and preserved through the bitter winters for their own consumption and for feeding the animals. Chickens and turkeys, pigs, cattle, goats.

Anything not produced by my Grandmother’s family was made by a neighbor.  Coffee, Tea, sugar, pepper and salt were among the few items not produced at the family farm or close by.

My Father was born and raised in the city after my Grandmother married and left the farm. They tended a huge garden on a double city lot and continued to produce and preserve a substantial portion of what was on the daily table.

My Dad felt the pull of history and returned to the farm while continuing a career as a bureaucrat and University professor. He purchased a quarter section and outbuildings from a retiring farmer and raised his family there, 30 miles north of Regina. While he kept the requisite garden, chickens, turkeys, ducks and the odd pet goat, his holy grail was malting barley.

I have lived in cities all my life, aside from a brief stint at my father’s farm after graduating from high school. My own food “awakening” came from a convergence of events. A close friend trained as a chef at the Art Institute of Seattle. FoodTV launched. I moved to a house with a garden. My grandmother bequeathed to me her thick folder of the collected family recipes.

You’re the only one of my kids or grandkids who cares about this stuff, so you should keep it.

I was overjoyed (I’ll share some of the contents of that folder with you in the near future…things familiar and others very strange). All these factors led to my personal re-awakening to what I was preparing, eating and serving to others.

One thing I know is that I too will return to the farm. I have plans to establish a agricultural business line in the Cowichan valley. I’m not sure what it will be yet. I want to grow, process and share something of a high quality imbued with traditional ethics and value. Deciding will be half the fun.

It is a wonderful thing that my two main food foundations – family tradition and urban foodists – are now converging along a trajectory that feels so intuitive and right.

Thanks for reading this. It’s great to be here. I’m loving what I read on these pages and hope to contribute on a regular basis.

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