Review- Nathan Winters Ch. 3

A while back, a friendly eco-tweeter shared this on twitter:

Since I consider myself an organic farming advocate, it was mere minutes before I had this chapter sitting in my Inbox. Then, I looked into Nathan Winters’ website and twitter a little more, and found out that he’s a little more than “some random eco-tweeter.” You can read his bio here, but long story short, Winters set out in May 2009 to bike from Maine to Washington (yes, Washington state) in order to explore “complex food movements” and to get to know his fellow Americans. And he did it. (*Insert expressions of awe and jealousy here*)

Deciding at that point to save this for a day when I could give it the attention it needed, I filed the chapter under “Blog” on my computer, and there it sat… for about a month.

I’ll get into the specifics in a minute, but let’s just say I’m happy to have reopened it! Somebody find this guy a publisher!!

As I write this now, I’m trying to decide what it is about this chapter that I really like the most.

Perhaps it was the uncanny connection I have with Winters’ story. The chapter is about his stop at an organic dairy and produce farm in rural Maine, near a town near Skowhegan. Curiously, I’ve been in Skowhegan on my days off while working at Ol’ Ways Farm in nearby Solon, and his description of this family brought back fond memories of my time with “my” farmers, Scott and Gemma.

People in Maine are pretty awesome, it seems.

His description of the farmer’s gentle control of the cows while bringing them in to the barn or the way that everything stops (including eating) until milking chores are done were so familiar, careful, and respectful of the skill and dedication it takes to be a farmer – something that makes you wonder how many other qualities of farmers us city folks take for granted or are completely oblivious to. Winters depicted, as best you can in words, the beauty of Maine in the summer and feelings of inferiority to these people with such an unfamiliar but vitally important profession. Additionally, I saw eye to eye on his feelings of slight stupidity….  all those questions you have for farmers, but when they come out they just sound idiotic because they’re so obvious. Ohh righttt, bulls are required for making more calves! …etc, etc, until soon you feel like your entire education is useless when it comes to hands-on progress. But that’s a whole different matter.

So that part was definitely fun- the way in which his alienation with the daily goings-on at Dairyland Organic were juxtaposed to the description of the all-knowing (or close to it), gentle, rugged, and wise farmers.

Aside from the Maine-connection, I am also excited about this chapter because of the way Winters explains his experience as it relates to the larger political and social situation in the United States. He links his brief experience on the farm with some difficult topics and makes it not only enjoyable to read, but also important to read.

Winters painted the ironic picture of this family who is so dedicated to the organic and local so-called, “trendy” food choices, and yet can’t afford to buy those products (that they don’t grow themselves) for their own home.

Here is a quote from his host, Sarah, that particularly struck me:

“The reality of the situation is this: If everyone here in Skowhegan wanted to buy from us at the farmer’s market there wouldn’t be enough food to go around. We need to get more people to farm. Farming is extremely empowering. There haven’t been very many generations of Americans who have put their hands in the soil. In order to change our food system, we need to get to a point where one in three people are growing food. Not one in a thousand. We cannot get away from industrial agriculture until more people are growing food on a small scale. If people are concerned with where their food comes from, they should not only support their local farmers but they should simply grow their own food.”’

How true and simple, yet challenging, is this statement? Is it challenging? (I hope I soon find out.)

I could go on and on about this piece that I read from Winters. But,

a. I don’t want to give away the whole thing and,

b. I’ll do it no justice and,

c. bottom line: get to know a farmer!

I can’t wait to read the rest of his stories and I hope that I can do something so valuable in my lifetime. I can’t wait to see what he does with this knowledge he’s gained.

Well done, Nathan!

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