Seasonal Interlude With A New Friend
For the past two days- Wednesday and Thursday- I've been swept away by what I've come to call a core-mission experience. Simran Sethi came to town to share her book "Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love", which we carry here at the Cider House with pride. Simran's book focuses on agricultural biodiversity and how this affects flavor, sense of place and food stability. Among other things. There's a lot out there to read about both Simran and her wonderful book, and my aim is not to repeat that necessarily, but to continue to share with the Finger Lakes Cider House and Good Life Farm communities how this kind of reading, writing and discussion circles back to spark our passion for what we do here.
Listening And Contemplating Amidst Much Doing
First stop- Simran's lecture on Wednesday night, brought to us courtesy of the Cornell Plantations Fall Lecture Series. Sitting in the audience was the first time in 2 months I'd sat and sustained a quiet, listening pose. September-November in the cider world is pants-on-fire, between the bookends of FLX Cider Week (Oct 1-9), NYC Cider Week (Oct 21-30), and all the harvest, pressing, fermenting, tasting room hosting, etc that goes on at our farm in a busy Finger Lakes fall. These times are critical to our business and we do our best to keep up and provide our customers and employees with a truthful and rich experience to keep us all grounded. It is a time to say "Yes" and take every opportunity to get out into the world with cider, with ginger, with beef, before we all hunker down for a northeast winter. In the midst of all this comes Simran and her rejuvenating message, and so back to the Statler Auditorium.
I find a direct and essential connection to Simran's work in the frequent decision making here at Good Life Farm, and continue to be reminded just how far we've come on the strength of our belief, our willingness to compromise and our youthful naivete.
Walking The Right Livelihood Path: Every Decision A Compromise
When it came time for Eric (Redbyrd Orchard Cider) and me to talk, I realized that despite being there ostensibly to talk about cider and preserving apple varieties, I could easily discuss many farm conundrums, and chose to illustrate the painful decision around turkey breeds we faced each year. Quoth one of our mentors regarding heritage breed turkeys "they will ruin your high tunnels, they will ruin your marriage, they will ruin your life". And so, uncharacteristically, we chose NOT to take on the challenge of breeding and raising only heritage breed turkeys. In actuality, the minute the broad breasted whites and bronzes hit our farm we found them to be active, curious animals who didn't at any point become catatonic on their way to processing weight. When holding up the permaculture ideal and trying to carry this biodiverse torch, each compromise that involves a nod back to industrial breeding seemed like a huge burden to bear. Except, it was really hard enough. On the agricultural side organic, day-range turkeys moving throughout an orchard and asparagus polyculture is a beautiful, productive system. On the financial end, the intense labor and high grain prices produce an endless series of question marks, so many that this year we took a turkey-raising break.
Luckily for me, I wasn't at Simran's talk to problem solve these issues as much as acknowledge and contemplate. On Thursday, we followed up the Wednesday Plantations lecture with an intimate Community Writing Circle, Discussion and Happy Hour here at the Cider House. This workshop was among a few we've held that are small, free, and content-rich without having a sales focus and they truly light my fire. We sat in a circle, sipped hot toddies of sweet cider and Pommeau, and followed Simran through her process for writing about food (read, love) and were challenged to write our own food story. Precious time spent in a more restful and thoughtful period that I could have wished for in this hurly burly season. Again, I found myself writing about the food aspect of Good Life Farm and our challenges in growing food in such an idealized bio-extensive system. I continue to realize how this farm is intended for the second generation of farmers here, who will enter into a land base of well established trees, a solid herd of cattle, and maybe some clarity around raising poultry.
Til Next Time
At this moment, a lot seems unclear and in flux. The Cider House has made it possible to run this as a full-time family operation but still entails 80-90 hr work weeks, which leads me to wonder where that second generation is going to come from. Instead of just worrying, the past two days of reconnecting to my personal "why" for all of this provides me with a tool for analyzing and discussing it with myself, with Garrett and with our team. And, in the midst of the exhaustive season of harvest and cider sales, I am awake! Thank you for the visit, Simran. Looking forward to sharing more on this topic.