By On the Road to FARMLANDIA | August 17, 2011 at 12:39 AM EDT | No Comments
What to say on my one week anniversary? Sorry for the delay, but traveling, shooting, schmoozing (which always precedes shooting), downloading media and so on and so on take a little organizin' of the workflow, as they say in the tech biz. So here I am, the night, ere of my second week: I'm in northern Illinois, near where I grew up in SW Wisconsin. The terrain looks like that and is familiar as is the smell of August in farm country. I'm visiting Tom Arnold, Elizabeth, IL, who has set up a small and successful food system of his own through which he markets his naturally raised pork, beef, chickens, and turkeys. He's also a Niman farmer. I will be spending some three to four days with Tom as he delivers a whole hog to a local restaurant, drops off pork and chicken at selected points in Dubuque, and then on to Chicago, where he is part of a Farmers Market there.
So, where did I start this excellent adventure way back in the dim past of August 10?: first at "Mangia Bene Farm!" -- exclamation point provided by the decidedly Italian proprietors, Joseph and Laura Aiello. Mike and I have been completely taken with their Italian greens at the Saugerties Farmers Market, produce you can't find anywhere else and produced from "old country" Italian seeds. They do all of this on a quarter acre in the tiny village of Glasco. Joe says that if he could get two acres, he would be set. So this is probably the tiniest farm I will visit--followed six days later by what I think will be my biggest: northern Indiana where 30,000 cows are milked three times a day. At 500 cows per hour, 250,000 gallons of milk per day, I'd say that's a lot of milk. And maybe a few small farms down the drain in the meantime? More on that later. In between: a trip to Orangeville, PA,. where the Hopkins family, Forks Farm, raise heritage pigs in the woods, and grass-fed/finished cattle, pasture-raised chickens and turkeys and, would you believe, make a living at it. (http://www.forksfarmmarket.com/) then on to Kim and Dianne Miller's Kananga Farm in Ligonier, IL. They raise Devon cows for their sweet disposition and tender meat. Kim's philosophy in 3 seasy lessons: Good grass, good farmer management, good genetics for cattle that can fatten on grass. They practice the intensive grazing technique call "mob-grazing". The grass is gorgeous as are the Devons. And, I might add, so are they. they put me up for the night, put mints on my pillow, and greeted me in the morning with non-Midwest great coffee and fresh peaches. Life is good. I also stopped off at the Tudors, Weatherbury Farms, where I got a lesson in heritage wheat from Nigel, Dale and Marcy's way-smart son who knows all there is about wheat (and is a blacksmith to boot). All along, I'm getting the feeling that soil & grass are at the heart of all....
So in one week, this is the itinerary in a word poem: Saugerties, NY, to PA; three stops in PA, then on to a slice of West Virginia, to Ohio, where I stayed at a place called the Amish Door--no food after 7:00; no beer ever; closed on Sunday. A bore. Goodbye OHI... then on to Indiana and the Hotel Six, or was it 8--no food but McDonalds--so I ate chips, then the next morning on to Fair Oaks, IN, and the cow amusement park where folks think farming is being done and the cows are amused and neither is much true. After that, on to Illinois and Tom Arnold and the farm as described above, but at dusk, just when the cows look magical, an emergency call from his 17 year old son who broke his collarbone during football practice and could they come and so I went with them to the highschool to drive their son's car home while they rushed him to the hospital. And as I backed out of the farm's driveway, I hit a heavy wire (it was then dark and it was invisible) and ripped the bumper of my spanking new Mazda from Hertz--then I drove back to town in the dark with the emergency brake on. So, first stop was the only local place in Stockton, IL, that has food and, what else a beer! So, that beer is the fuel for this blog tonight and I hope I haven't bored you with my plight--tomorrow: Dubuque!