This post comes to you from Whitefish, Montana. I just began a 6-month apprenticeship at Terrapin Farm, an organic produce and seed-breeding farm nestled against the Stillwater River. I’m working hard in the fields to learn everything I can – from soil health to sales – about sustainable farming. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this seems more fundamental than ever. As I gritted my teeth through my quarantine, I felt a strong urge to nurture and sustain individual people, and our society as a whole. Home cooking and baking took on new value for me and many others as a calming, nurturing, and connecting practice (I’m not going to add to the verbiage surrounding the worked-over theme of the run on yeast and the craze for sourdough starter). I made grain bowls, linguini with local clams, and vegetable stews. I fermented cumin-scented carrots and made pesto with the carrot tops. I baked scones and blondies, biscotti and brownies. I preserved lemons, grew microgreens, started a mushroom log.
The vitalness of local foods and food systems was felt more acutely than ever before, particularly, it seemed, by people who previously had not given much thought to where their food comes from. But with supply chains ruptured and supermarket visits risky ventures, suddenly the localness of food also came to be associated in people’s minds with health and with sustenance. How wonderful! But when restaurants and large institutions like colleges closed, many farmers lost most of their market and were forced to dump crops and even euthanize livestock. Others scrambled to reorient to retail markets by restarting CSAs (community-supported agriculture, or farm shares) and setting up farm stands, which is what we are doing here at Terrapin Farm.
When the pandemic wanes, we will all have to think about how to support local farmers, local farms, and farm systems – the web of growers, distributors, processors, sellers, and eaters that form food economies. Stir-crazy in my quarantine, I wanted to be part of creating that future, and I wanted to be part of growing healthy, fresh food and getting it directly into the hands of local people. It seemed like such an elemental contribution to make.
So I traveled across the country (itself another story) and settled in at the farm in my little cabin in the woods, surrounded not just by trees but by an astoundingly large number of very friendly white-tailed deer.
I’ll be posting here about my experience, with a focus on photos from the farm and our labor there to produce good food. Dig in!