‘Deadheads’ of Self Sustenance
After two guest posts for a friends blog, it was time for my own! This is an experience I had to share.
I took off to Maine for the July 4th weekend this year and had one of the most cathartical experiences of my life. The best decision ever was to choose AirBnB for accommodations.
I seriously had no idea what I was getting into when I picked this –
The bay window overlooked horse pasture and Giles Pond. Yes, I decided to spend the weekend at Featherfoot Farm (Aurora, Maine). This was my first experience ever in a farm, and I must say it was exceptional. I grew up in a metropolitan city in India with no exposure to farm life, I did visit some farms but nothing like this.
Maine has an abundance of water bodies, you pretty much see water everywhere you go. The first day in Maine was touristy, we spend the day in Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.
Dan, the owner of the farm and our very gracious host, promised me a tour of the farm. This was possibly the most exciting part of the trip. We were also warned about the weekend long live screening of the Grateful Dead concert, a cult almost alien to me! We attended a live screening and it was my first time being surrounded by deadhead’s. I had never seen any cult following like that…and I thought Rush fans were crazy! This was another level of crazy.
The focus of this post is about my experience in the farm, there’s so much of ‘farm life’ I got acquainted with –
A Demonstration Farm
Featherfoot Farm is a demonstration farm and an educational resource center for sustainable healthy living. All the produce grown in the farm is consumed by people living in the farm. They believe in self-sustenance which I think is a pretty amazing concept since they have complete control over what they consume. The farm has interns in the summer who are responsible for the CSA program.
CSA – Community Supported Agriculture
Being in the United States I have read about this economic model but never subscribed to it. How does CSA – Community Share Agriculture work? – A group of consumers sign up with upfront payment to receive seasonal produce from local farmers on a weekly basis. This to me is a brilliant concept to support the local economy. From my recent visit to India, I realized there is a growing desire to eat nutritious food and lead a healthy lifestyle, this model could possibly thrive there. In a way; it also connects the farmers directly with the consumers which is a great community building exercise. I also believe this is a win-win scenario for both farmers and consumers. Its a sure shot way for farmers to receive the funding they deserve. The consumers are also directly connected with the farmers to receive a supply of fresh produce rather than dealing with a third party.
It was interesting to see interns work so hard and come up with a weekly share of the CSA batch. The picture below is an example of what a CSA consignment could look like: organic carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, purple cabbage and wild chamomile. I plucked a bunch of wild chamomile and mint to bring back home. They were then dried on the counter, crushed and brewed to make some great chamomile tea (very different tasting from store bought).
Organic Farming is Hard work
Organic farming is tough, it requires serious devotion. For example, an intern spent days planting the potato crop and then several days hand plucking thousands of insects that were destroying the crop. There’s no easy way out for organic farming, it requires great commitment.
How does the farm sustain?
After spending some time with Dan and his family, the first thought that crossed my mind is, how do they sustain financially? Organic farmers don’t make a ton of money, just growing produce isn’t enough, what adds value is if they can make a product out of it, such as selling just blueberries vs fresh blueberry spread. There is more value in a product rather than just supplying raw materials to produce it.
Also, winters are brutal in that part of the country so there’s minimal activity around that time of the year. Of course there is some funding from the government to maintain the farm, they also host several retreats and camps for children and adults. The family believes in ahimsa and have yoga retreats for adults and summer camps for children. I found this very intriguing and would love to go back sometime and spend more time with the little community that’s formed there amidst tranquility, fresh air and many happy faces.
I have never seen so much hard work and passion combined to form a community (serious deadheads). It makes you want to break out of the rut and take time off, stay in the farm, bathe in the lake, pluck some berries to eat with freshly made goat cheese :).
* Select pictures in the post are courtesy of Featherfoot Farm.