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Farming: The Real Deal

It is easy to forget that the planet we live on is as much alive as we are. Things move and circulate and breathe and die and feed in ancient and unprompted ways. In the age of digital tweets and star gazing apps, we lose that inborn ability to participate in the epic and natural rhythms of life. The part of us that tells us to eat more meat in the colder months, the part of us that can predict the coming of a storm as air pressure drops over the bay. We cannot connect. Things feel disjointed.

These days we need reminders that the earth is not static, it is alive. The seasons are not determined by what Hallmark cards are on display. Local soils are not as dynamic and malleable as the colorful bins of exotic produce in grocery stores suggest.  No wonder why we are so disconnected.

This brings me to, oyster farming (you knew where I was headed with this one, didn’t you?).  The winter has been so long and cold – longer and colder than most –that it has extended the period of time where oysters are not growing.  Normally, things start to warm up a bit in Duxbury this time of year. The birds chirp, and the water temperature rises to level that wakes the oysters from their winter hibernation, allowing them to plump up and heal their chips . That just isn’t happening right now, and it is frustrating for everyone involved – farm to table.

This is where both the beauty and difficulty of working with a small farm lies. Everyone these days wants to work directly with Farmer Joe because there is real environmental and social value in doing so. When you work directly with a small farm you have fresher product, more transparency and accountability, better customer service, and hotter sales girls (ahem). You also are supporting local economies and in the case of Island Creek, supporting one of the most sustainable products out there.  But this also means that you are more directly affected by what happens on that small farm – natural disasters, a broken leg, a long winter.

It might seem incredulous that in 2014, we cannot control output with factory-like precision. But this is REAL farming.  Not the synthetic, seasonless magic of Monsanto seeds and Tyson Chicken wings. On the farm, we are as strategic and responsible as possible, but are ultimately vulnerable to factors that we cannot ever possibly control.  Like the pastoral generations of farmers before us, our sustenance and livelihood are at the mercy of nature. We must respect the process, however frustrating, and know that warmer days are ahead.


★ Michelle Wong is the newest member of the ICO sales team. She worked on the farm for many years before returning to ICO after she finished college. ★