I always carried around this romantic vision of a farmer’s life. Rising with the early sun warm on your face, quiet mornings spent plucking tender peas from their vines, chatting up loyal customers at each farmer’s market, a kitchen full of beautiful, fresh food that is more delicious because you grew it yourself.
I was convinced that idyllic story was true, that is, until I moved to Sonoma, got all farmer-y, and planted my very first little vegetable garden. I experienced more frustration and more aggravation than a tiny 12-foot plot of land should be allowed to elicit. From ravenous slugs to never ripening tomatoes, I struggled to remind myself why I felt compelled to spend hours in the scorching summer sun, living with an aching back and continuously dirty fingernails, to simply produce items I could have just as easily picked up at the grocery store. Then, I bit into my first forkful of dainty lettuces just-picked from my garden, lettuces that I tended carefully from seed. It was then that I was reminded in an instant of sweet green crunchiness. Those baby leaves were easily the most beautiful salad greens I had ever eaten. That is why I did it. I did it for the taste.
Farming is hard. Really hard. If my miniature square of dirt almost drove me to the loony bin, I can’t imagine how punishing the real life of a farmer must be. Particularly the life of a small farmer simply trying to grow beautiful, natural, small-scale organic vegetables without the ease of modern or factory farming methods such as pesticides and large-scale equipment. It is not an easy life, I can imagine. And then, think about being married to one? Downright maddening, I am sure. Sonoman Casey Beck is a young filmmaker who is showing the world just what being married to a farmer is like in her heartfelt new documentary, “The Organic Life.” Casey strived to understand the reasons that motivated her then-boyfriend, Austin Blair, who works as a farm assistant at Paul’s Produce, to choose this difficult life of a farmer.
I watched the story of a year in the life of this sweet couple unfold with each season while tirelessly working at the farm with tears in my eyes. Not only is the film beautifully shot, but Austin’s quiet passion for food is utterly moving. It was remarkable to watch his enthusiasm for this grueling work; the eternally long days and the challenges it placed on his relationship with Casey while never once complaining, but always maintaining this extreme level of peacefulness. It is heartwarming to watch his devotion for tending his own garden at home, take on the additional challenges of raising chickens, and even grind his own corn for Thanksgiving stuffing. “The Organic Life” is a film about sustainable farming, but it is ultimately a love story. A story about a boy who has fallen in love with that very same thing. Taste.
“The Organic Life” which will be shown at the 2014 Sonoma International Film Festival, has also been picked up for national distribution. Soon after the festival, it will be released online on platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, and GooglePlay. Although, you can see it first at an exclusive Sonoma International Film Festival Sneak Peak on February 16, at 3 p.m., at Suite D on Eighth Street. Mingle with the filmmaker and star (Casey and Austin), enjoy some local wine and the girl & the fig’s famous charcuterie platters before sitting down to a full length preview of the film, followed by a Q&A with Casey and Austin. Your name must be on the donor’s list to get in, and space is limited, so visit Foodie Crowd Funding at foodiecrowdfunding.com/projects/the-organic-life-movie/ to purchase your $50 tickets. All proceeds go towards the $15,000 needed to secure music rights for this film.
When the meal become a Movement?
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to have light and fun conversations about food. It is now a hot topic and a favorite for debate. Food is now becoming “one of those subjects you avoid” at dinner parties. It has become more than simply something we put into our mouths to nourish and sustain us, more than something to celebrate, to share, to prepare and to grow. Food is now political, it’s environmental, its racial and economical. Being an excited, food-loving person is no longer enough. Now, to be a “real” foodie, you had better be familiar with what fish are on the “safe” list, the status of the current Farm Bill, where to shop organically – choosing items with the most minute carbon footprint, of course – and how to avoid GMOs at all costs. Food has become more than a meal, it’s a Movement.
Food is, and always has been, my life. I was very fortunate to be taught from an early age the importance of making healthy food choices, dining together regularly as a family and being conscience of where our food comes from. I was taught these invaluable lessons from my parents, also passionate foodies, through gardening, fishing, responsible hunting and cooking together. These early life experiences continuously remind me of the difficulties of growing food, of utterly respecting an animal destined for the table, to be mindful of waste and the true value of sharing a meal. These are the issues that matter most to me. I hope that in sharing my stories and experiences here weekly, that I may also inspire others to take action in their own Food Movement. But – first and most importantly! – be informed. Here is a handful of my favorite links for food information and education:
Organicconsumers.org. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The OCA deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children’s health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability and other key topics.
Caff.org. The Community Alliance with Family Farmers is an organization that advocates for California’s family farmers and sustainable agriculture. CAFF strives to build on shared values around food and agriculture, and work together in practical, on-the-ground programs. These partnerships create locally based economic vitality, improved human and environmental health, and long-term sustainability of family farms.
slowfoodusa.org. A world wide organization working effortlessly to create lasting change in our food systems through awareness, community and transforming food policy, production practices and market forces.
Farmaid.org. Farm Aid works with local, regional and national organizations to promote fair farm policies and grassroots organizing campaigns designed to defend and bolster family farm-centered agriculture.