A Merrier World, Via Vegetables

A Merrier World, Via Vegetables

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
~J.R.R. Tolkien



Eva, my three year old, and I spent Memorial Day weekend this year – like we do most years – at the family homestead.  We packed up Friday morning and made the five hour trek across Minnesota to the eastern plains of the South Dakota prairie as the sun went with us, traveling to the west.  We stopped in Redwood falls to take in the unexpected waterfall views of the Minnesota south west for a break and arrived at dinner time.  Waiting for us were fields of freshly tilled dark earth, young seedlings firming their roots into the earth, and welcoming arms strong from spring planting.   We found garlic fields inching toward the sky by the day and peas and turnips and beets content to drink up moisture by the minute, ever anxious to grow into their full potential.  Life on the farm picks up speed as the month of May winds down.  And in June in July?  The long days of summer are both a blessing and a curse to those who cultivate the earth-especially those who cultivate it with respect for the soil.

Hillside Prairie Gardens, the family farm, has been in operation upwards of 30 years, but in the last few  things have intensified as the scale and reach increases.  USDA organic certification never made sense until this past year, and as of early May, the farm is official.  Never using pesticides and taking care of the soil for 30+ years pays off when it comes to streamlining the process.  Despite using organic methods for years, there is satisfaction and validation in achieving official recognition of commitment to sound growing practices.  There are details to keep track of and hard work was part of the certification process and will continue to permeate everything about running an organic farm, but it’s work that leaves a good feeling in the bottom of the soul at the end of the day.  That, or at least it’s work that leads to never having to worry about not being able to fall asleep at night.


Days  at the farm (when we are there) go something like this: Wake up to bird song and a singing toddler. Practice some yoga on the deck.  Brew coffee and enjoy the rhubarb crisp that mom made the night before for breakfast.  Visit dad working at the farmer’s market stand in the rain and trade some lettuce and kale for sweet bread with the local bread baker.  Harvest some radishes, asparagus, baby heads of lettuce and curly leaves of kale for lunch.  Play trains, talk with whoever’s around in between cultivating and squash seedling planting and cooking and cleaning.  Chase the barn cats and hide in the pole-bean teepee.  Read books and listen to the mist.  Watch the food fly in the kitchen as four chefs chop, slice, fry and mix home grown goodness into an evening feast.  Drink wine.  Read more.  Talk about how to grow food, prepare food, eat food and sell food.  Talk about food some more.  Rest and repeat, albeit a few shifts with details here and there.

In short, a visit to the family farm means witnessing growth and challenge and beauty and stillness all rolled into one.   And as the seasons move through, with each of them come different versions of growth and challenge and beauty and stillness, along with the energy that invites Tolkien’s merrier world to become reality.