For the love of food and foodies

Aug 19, 2011

Farm Aid’s “Homegrown Village” is a sort of cheesy title for something that’s really simple, and from what I saw and heard, rare.

The village came to life last weekend in a big lot around the Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., where the musical acts performed at this year’s concert. The Village was populated by farm group booths, DIY-presentations, food samples and sizzling, local pork for sale at a booth rented by Boone County’s own Patchwork Family Farms. So, it was a rare event, especially for the farmers there, because it’s not every day that people who work the land get enough time to take a break and hang with others like them.

This week on Field Notes, I’ll take you on a tour through this farmer-foodie love fest, where you’ll get to eavesdrop on the conversations farmers and farm supporters are having right now. So, questions like, what keeps you up at night when you think about your farm? Not, what are you growing this season? I wanted to ask these people what’s been on their mind, and I put it in this soundscape for no reason other than this: Farmers do think about more than just soil, seed and finish. There’s a lot of time to let your mind wander as you wind your cattle down for the night or inspect rows of crop.

What I found was even within the more alternative-minded Farm Aid fan base (they love locally raised meat, but would rather not shop at Walmart), there are a wide range of views. Not every liberal farmer believes in the organic certification process, and even among the small-time farms present on the lot that day, there were just as many corporate conglomerates.

And the future of farming? I spoke with John Kinsman the Wisconsin founder of this international group called La Via Campesina. He sounded so fed up with the way he sees farm workers and owners being treated in this country and abroad, all he could do was laugh. Though, on the other side of the Village lot, stood two beginning farmers who had just married in Iowa, and looked bright-eyed as they described their vision of the years coming up on their family farm.

I’ve met a lot of cynical farmers who work really hard, and say they feel like they can’t get ahead. It was a relief, even if just for a few hours, to see the same sorts smiling and celebrating food just for the sake of a good time.