John Denver May Have Been Wrong By
Denver thanked God that he was a country boy. He also liked to “take in” the Rocky Mountains, enjoyed “natural” things, and was born in Roswell, New Mexico, so was likely an alien. We can forgive him his transgressions.
Well before he flew his plane into the Pacific while humming Calypso, he sang, “life on the farm is kind of laid back”. Idyllic, maybe, but “laid back”?
Whilst not thinking of Denver, Denver, Colorado, farming, and ensconced comfortably in Downtown Richmond, we came across a neat little blurb for a new documentary that’s coming out. What happens when five perfect strangers stop being polite and start being real? They move to the Ozarks and take up farming.
That’s the premise of The Garden Summer, a documentary by Georgetown student Hailey Wist. She solicited four others to join her at her family’s farm in rural Arkansas. They would have no real prior experience, eat what they grew, sell things at a local farmer’s market, and only eat from within a 100-mile radius. They made an exception for coffee and booze. Smart kids.
They met up in the spring and prepped their garden, shopped for seeds, and met their neighbors. They reconvened in the early summer and began living like farmers in earnest.
They grew squash, cucumbers, arugula, basil, and radishes. They supplemented their produce at the farmer’s market with flowers like zinnias and sunflowers. They fished for bass and catfish in local ponds, traded for cheese, eggs, chicken, and beef with local farmers, and apparently lived like kings. Far from starving, these five “non-farmers” ate like champs morning, noon, and night. At the end of their summer they enjoyed a feast prepared by a friend who happened to be a James Beard Award winning chef. The feast was several courses and was prepared with items from right on their farm.
But all was not easy.
Their garden was tilled from pasture, and required days and days of plowing, weeding, pruning, and tending. They had to deal with torrential rain, then drought, then a well that had run dry. Despite the efforts of a vigilant farm dog, a predator helped itself to chickens on a regular basis, and cattle routinely found the garden. But look at some of the quotes from Wist’s journal:
“The fireflies were thick in the pasture and the air smelled like honeysuckle.”
“I’m actually growing quite fond of the dew and pockets of cool in the early hours of the day.”
Kind of makes you want to be a farmer, doesn’t it?
Virginia actually has a pretty robust agritourism economy. While you can always tour the great plantations and vineyards of our Commonwealth, there are also plenty of places where you can spend a day picking, harvesting, or just getting a little soil on your hands. You can visit a food festival, plan a special event at a farm, or take an actual farm vacation. Have you heard of “geocaching”? It’s like a real-live treasure hunt where you use a GPS to find coordinates that contain clues and surprises. The Virginia Department of Agriculture actually has an Agri-Caching challenge for folks in our state.
If you don’t have the time to visit an actual farm, you can always visit us here at The Urban Farmhouse. We didn’t pick the stuff, but much of what we use here came from local farms and vendors. You could also stop by at one of our local farmer’s markets. There are a slew of them convenient to The Urban. Our friends over at Bon Air Buzz do a pretty good job of keeping track of who’s doing what. Take a look. They also have good taste in music.