Discussions for The Dirty Life (Question #3 and 4)

We are discussing The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. Please feel free to jump right in!

Question #3
Mark and Kristin start a farm that aims to provide a whole diet for their year-round members. 
If a farm in your area did the same thing, would you become a member? 
How would it change the way you cook and eat?


Question #4
The first year on Essex Farm was full of trial and error. Kristin had never farmed before and much of her knowledge came from her neighbors and from books. 
In what ways did all of the mishaps shape Kristin and change her perspective?

 

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  1. This book is a testament to hard work, focus, and dedication to sustainable farming. I savored reading it like coming to a "feast" of learning. If it were required reading for high school, our population may begin to understand the importance of todays healthy farmers. Can you tell I give it the highest marks?? Love it!

  2. Question 3:
    I love the concept of a year round, whole diet CSA. Our local CSA runs mid April through first heavy freeze, which was the first week of December in 2010.

    I know I have changed the way I cook since we joined our local CSA. The afternoon of the delivery is like Christmas – we never know what will arrive in our bag, other than fresh eggs. Organic home-baked goods are available for purchase, as well as CSA honey, jellies, beef, and chicken. I only cook in season produce now. And plan my dishes around what is available from the CSA or our own small garden.

  3. The CSA that I currently belong to offers food year round. (Not all the same food – sweet potatoes and the various grains, plus products that used to be pig *g* are about all that appears every week.) However, this CSA draws from all over the state, so there are far more options than are available if just one farm was the source of everything.

    I don't think "everything from one place" is the best ideal. I think that not every plot of land is good for everything. I think farmers should be able to tailor their work to their goals (steady work year round or significant periods with no really work neccessary) without feeling like they're failing to provide. Mark and Kristin each had their strengths – if each had married a person with other strengths, their farm would have been different, I think.

    I think the best line in the book is the one where Kristin talks about coming to terms with death and rot. The blight of frost and the failure of new things to thrive are as integral a part of farming, imo, as the bloom of spring and the joy of sprouts and fuzzy chicks. I don't think that the year-round supply of fresh veggies makes us lose an understanding of the bounty of spring; rather, I think that in an excess of abundance we forget the power and importance of death.

    Which, for me, brings us back to the conflict between supplying food cheaply and supplying it in the ways we've taken to calling 'sustainable'. Sure, us-fat-&-sassy upper-middle-class types who scowl at rain clouds and don't like to think about slaughterhouses may need a wake-up to remember the other side of luxury is want. But for many people – the guy standing in the rain, waiting on the bus, to go to his second part-time job…does he need schooling in appreciation of the little things in life? I am hesitant to tell him that he needs to spend his spare time & money gardening, or buying from a CSA, because he would get a better understanding of birth & decay from it.

    *sigh* If it were easy to figure this out, someone else would have already done so.

  4. I dream of offering a complete diet CSA to our customers, but with three children under the age of three…well, we're doing what we can right now. My husband is my voice of reason and tones down my "let's do it all right now" approach. I love the fully invested nature of the complete CSA, for both the farmer and the member. That was what surprised me when we started our CSA. The philosophy is to put the farmer's face on the food, but for us, it put the customer's face on what we were raising. We knew who was waiting for which items, which kids would be eating the cherry tomatoes, for example. I love that!!

    I grew up on a farm and I guess I learned at an early age that things never turn out the way you think they will. The cows will get out, you'll drop the egg bucket, the pittman will break on the mower, etc. But along with that are the "happy accidents" where it works out better than you thought it would. Kristin talks often about how hard they worked, that drive to get everything done but not getting it done. I felt her despair when they had to plow down the weedy crops. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and start over and that is so difficult when you've worked so hard!!

  5. I think the whole diet idea is wonderful. After buying from farmers and farmers markets – watching the trends and other shoppers – I truly believe the only way to help local farmers survive is NOT by buying a little bit from each of them but by digging in and being dedicated to one of them. I know that many shoppers do this as did I, once upon a time – wanting to “help” all the vendors and buy just one veggie or item from each but in the end that helps none of them. What I started doing – mostly out of necessity and ease of shopping – was buying all the produce I needed from one vendor, all my meat from another vendor, and so on and so forth.

    We did out homework – asked the farmers lots of questions and even did farm tours to be certain we wanted to shift all of our money to them before making the commitment. Now, we buy in a very dedicated fashion to certain providers. I can tell that this helps more than my ones and twos of purchases ever did before. I much prefer one stop shopping as well – but not many of the farmers at the market have it all under one tent! If there were a local option for a whole diet here in the form of a CSA I would definitely sign-up. As it is right now I buy beef from Polyface, Pork and chicken from a local farm, and for produce we grow some in our yard and the rest we buy at the farmers market. I then make a special trip to a drop location for a food buying club from the Amish and get all our fermented foods I have yet to learn how to make. All of these are coordinated events and send me all over the local area and the state – to Polyface. It’s exhausting! But I deem it necessary to feed out family a certain way. We toured lots of farms and not all of them are farming in a way that we like enough to invest in what they are offering.

    I think that first year for the author was profound in so many ways. I love that she fully admits what she thought about farmers, farming, and the work it entailed. I also love that she shared many times throughout the book how her perspective was ever changing and her respect growing. I had many moments of head shaking or nodding while reading – just feeling exhausted reading about her life!

    I truly believe that this book was a great source of farming birth control for me! LOL! I have read so much about homesteading and believe that it is mostly romanticized beyond recognition – this book sets the record straight!