It has been harder than usual to sit down and begin the process of clearly bringing to the light the specific things I am grateful for this year. Although this task is meant to remind us that we usually have so very much to be thankful for and the act of giving that thanks builds up our spirits and reminds us of all the good that abounds, it can also make one wonder why others in the world find themselves suffering at the same time we are feeling so fortunate. I felt quite a bit like this last year too, although I can’t help smiling when I look back at this list. I think there are two things at work causing this feeling and one is just the simple fact that life contains both tremendous joy and tremendous sorrow and there is no logic to the wheel of fortune. The other, less existential, piece of the puzzle is that there are simply a lot more people right here that are having a hard time. Growing up from 1976 on, I have always felt like the really hard stuff was happening to other people in other countries. I really felt like prosperity was there for all but for the taking (or the making might be more accurate). I can’t help but feel that even though there are still places in the world living in situations that make everything we are going through here look like a walk in the park, that there is less assurance now that all will fine. How does one count their blessings without realizing that there is always a part of our good times that is riding the roulette wheel of chance and circumstance, when friends and neighbors are on the flip side?
But in the thick of these thoughts, this one really does shine like a beacon for me; I am quite thankful for a whole lot of things, and with compassion and concern for others ever present, I still don’t want to let this Thanksgiving pass without bringing my attention fully to my blessings. I think this year I will spread them out over the course of a few days because today, I really just want to focus on how thankful we are for our CSA members and regular market customers and the gratitude we have for this work we do. This farm provides our family with so much more than just income, and without our wonderful farm members and customer base, this wouldn’t be possible.
So here is just a small bit of what we are thankful for, things that all of you have helped our family enjoy:
- Being connected. In one sense, the mere fact that we operate a small business whose customer base is solely our very own community connects us to our community more than if we worked with a different business model. All of the buy local hoopla is certainly not hoopla! Aside from the responsibility generated between consumer and producer when things are kept face to face, there is just something so awesome about getting to know all hosts of people who share the same town or valley as you do, who you will talk with each week while doing business but will also see at the park with your kids, the library, the festivals, and out and about at the other local businesses in town. And often, farm members and customers are other local business owners from town and often other vendors at our farmer’s markets. We get to see first hand the truth behind the significance a thriving local economy can have and our farm opens the door to this interconnectedness,that given the instability of the world market, gives me hope for our own smaller, community marketplace. But this community connectedness is just one side of the coin; being able to farm for a living has allowed for our family to enjoy a really wonderful lifestyle of connectedness. For goodness sakes! We live, learn, play, and work altogether on this farm, everyday (aside from market days I suppose, when we get to come live, learn, play and work with all of you!). Family togetherness has always been one of our main hopes for this family, and we feel truly blessed to be able to see this achieved while we do work we find so satisfying. Some years the farm is in a growing stage, and we all feel a little flustered about whether we are balancing business life and family life well. This was one of those year…but nevertheless, we still ate almost every meal together at our table and made time for the small things that define enjoyment for all of us (you know, strawberry desserts in spring, the creek and a picnic in summer, hot tea and gathering leaves in the fall). We are so thankful for this, more thankful than for almost anything else.
- Being nourished. Being able to grow delicious produce for a living has allowed our family to eat like kings. We fill our plates with the same beautiful, tasty produce we harvest for all of you and even in moments of business motivated crisis (these happen, although not too much!), I always remind myself of this added richness we enjoy. The food we grow, or any other local farmer grows, is so superior in flavor and offers so much more enjoyment in the eating that we really do feel like we eat lavishly, especially when we couple our products with the wonderful products others offer at market. We know that eating so many well raised vegetables also acts to keep us strong and healthy. We are nourished both by the experience and in our bodies. Coupled with the fact that doing work that we feel is important and that we feel makes the world a better place has been another one of our main hopes as a couple, so we are nourished in spirit by having the opportunity to do so. We are so thankful for thriving in the most important ways.
- Being challenged. This is a double sided gratitude, because although our business has grown every year and we are still moving forward, starting your own business can be extremely challenging and starting a farm business comes with its own set of challenges. Nevertheless, all challenges present an opportunity for growth, and I can say that without a doubt, we have both grown so much in this process, all in positive ways. There is the simple way in which we are challenged to constantly learn the intricacies of our craft and to learn new (to us) things about farming and living on the land. We must find ways to adapt and solve problems. But more significantly, the process has challenged our humility, our physical and mental endurance, our kindness, our shyness, our relationship skills, and our sanity! And along the way, we find ourselves so happy to be here, to be the people we are, the family we have made, the life we have created in the process of creating this business. Living your dreams is not easy, but the truth is that it is the act of pursuing them that is the real deal. That is the stuff that makes our stories and we are so thankful for it all because it is our story!
- Being free. This one I know will sound silly, but I can’t help but relate to the words of Almonzo’s mother in Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which I can’t find right now, but basically express the feeling that Almonzo won’t be free if he takes an apprenticeship in town and doesn’t pursue farming. His father is worried whether farming will provide him with enough security, enough money, and knows that it is such hard work; but his mother simply can’t stand the thought of him not being free! Now, this freedom is kind of up to the individual, and I am not saying that one can’t find it doing just about anything; but for us, living on this farm and working with the land, for ourselves, we feel free. Not unencumbered, because the farm ties us to it with pretty tight binds, but as others have worked out before me, we can’t really be free without fitting to ourselves the right strings. For us, the bounds of farm and family life give us the freedom we need, the freedom to pursue all those things I just wrote about, and we are ever thankful for that.
- Being thankful. Ultimately, without all of you finding it beneficial and important to participate in our CSA and to visit us at market every week, we wouldn’t have all of this to be thankful for. This farm and this business is really such an integral part of our lives, connecting us to this place and the wonderful people we share it with, to each other. It shapes our days and our time, our health and our lifestyle. It gives us so much more than just a livelihood. This Thanksgiving, we can’t help but say, repeatedly….thank you!!!