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It's December, which means it's officially been six months since I've traded in my tie and the bustling concourse of Rockefeller Plaza for a rake and the rolling hills of the former Rockefeller Estate. It's been six months since Matt and I spent our weekdays foraging for delicious street food meals and fought with tourists over awful punchcard lunch salads I am ashamed to call salads and even more ashamed to have paid for to get a 10th one free. And after six months, I've decided to stay onboard at Stone Barns for another unique 6 month adventure. Now the fun really begins, the pressure is on, my faithful teammates have taken their talents out into the world and all the learning, prepping, making harvest lists, watering and developing we did together is going to show. It's just me, the Captain and the greenhouse left for the next few months before the new batch of apprentices come on. With this added pressure, comes the beauty of...
developing an intimate relationship with every bed and every plant growing through the winter. Although it doesn't cease to amaze me how beautiful and incredible it is that all these delicious plants grow from tiny little seeds, I've been able to get passed that in order to understand the next level of inspiration. But now that the initial magic has worn off a bit, it doesn't mean it's any less interesting it's just different, my first layer has been uncovered and now I can't wait to dig deeper as there are endless layers to the study of food, culture, society, health and business.
This past week was the 4th annual Young Farmers Conference which is run and held at Stone Barns. There were plenty of incredibly interesting people from 24 different states and 5 different countries teaching, sharing, learning and working side by side. Some of the best minds in local, sustainable agriculture were there to impart and digest wisdom from all different farmers, scientists and food activists. At one point during this amazing two day fun/educational extravaganza, I was interviewed for a new website, Kitchen Conversations, which documents and shares people's connections to food with the greater public. During my short session I was asked when I got the "food/farming bug" and although there were many important "ah-ha" moments at the beginning of this journey, the first thing that came to my mind was bright, glowing, neon orange Mokum carrots freshly picked from the ground. I can still remember the sweet and juicy taste from two years ago because to me that was truly my "first" time ever tasting a carrot. I can only describe how I felt as "being a kid again," because I was jumping up and down for joy at how cool the experience was, a common phrase I think we all use and/or hear frequently.
It's not the actual desire to be a kid, but that beautiful aw-inspiring moment of amazement you feel as a kid experiencing something for the first time, like your first fireworks show. Although picking carrots and tasting their sweet, crisp wintery texture is still a reason to get up in the morning, I started to think about that initial magic, that incredible laughter I remember from the first few months at Stone Barns two years ago, but where did that go? At first I got a little angry and sad because it was gone, but then I recently realized that this is the best gift of all; the ability to move to the next level. By becoming satiated or tolerant of the fantasy of the world, we are better equipped to work on improving our understanding of our work and seek out the next big, colorful, flavorful moment of life. This tolerance or satiation is exactly what leads to innovation. Innovation requires a desire to improve something or create something necessary, there is always something new to learn and explore, but it takes someone getting passed how incredible the bright fireworks are to do so. As I begin this next stage in my life as a farmer, I have new challenges, not only on the fields, but with my own perception. Now when I pick a a carrot I don't spend the next 3 hours running around the greenhouse yelling about how good it tastes. I admire it, thank it for existing and move on to learning more and more towards my greater goal of understanding how it all works and what I can do with that knowledge. The issue here is that sometimes it's harder to get to that next step and that can be frustrating because it was so easy to get that first excitement, but this just makes it sweeter when you get there.
Now it's easy to look at this as a negative because from a pessimistic point of view everything loses it's magic and that means there is no purpose to devoting ourselves to anything. From the optimist's point of view, this is necessary and incredible because this tolerance allows us to explore further, it allows us to dig deeper. This satiation also allows us to differentiate intelligently.
When I look at a persons mouth, I see a bunch of teeth, but when my dad, a dentist, looks at a mouth he recognizes each tooth and the roll it plays in the mouth, he sees a world of opportunity. This means we have the ability to notice something new that we couldn't notice before because everything was so overwhelming and blurry with newness. The better we get to know something, the better we understand it, to me this is the key to innovation. This is the key to the next phase. I found myself looking at old pictures of the last two years on the farm and realize that I am finally looking at all the details. Instead of looking at the people in the pictures, I want to look at the background where the beds are placed and how they were seeded; I finally have a reference point because of a life experience.
Winter in the greenhouse is filled with green. Hearty root vegetables, like carrots, radishes and turnips as well as thick leafy greens like spinach, kale, swiss chard, Mache and Claytonia.
and don't forget the salad...