Tilling Fields of Stone

One of my earliest memories as a child is of working in the field behind our house at Hillcrest Orchards.

We were moving stones.

Each year when my father would work the ground for the garden more stones would appear, almost as if they floated upwards through the earth just to get to the sunshine at the top.  My tiny hands could only carry the smallest rocks, but I carried what I could.  We made a tower of them at the side of the field and I recall thinking that they looked like potatoes.

Years later I once again moved stones with my husband William.  He hitched our draft horses, Jim and John the huge Belgian geldings, to our “rock boat” which was a piece of steel bent up on all sides, supported by rebar, and used to “float” the heavy rocks out of the field.  He had used it a lot growing up in the red rock country of Hurricane, UT.  His family’s farm fields were filled with stones, but they were determined to grow in them every year.  We used the rock boat on our family farm in Missouri to remove stones from the area where we planted 1,000 fruit trees.

My children have had the pleasure of moving stones from the fields we’ve worked, building their own potato looking stacks, spiriting them away to serve as foundations for play forts or Anasazi cliff dwelling replicas.

Moving stones is as much a part of farming as planting seeds or hoeing weeds.   We are accustomed to hard work, well acquainted with the weight and weariness of it, and have felt the absolute pleasure of falling into bed at night exhausted but satisfied with a good day’s effort.

But recently I’ve run up against hard places where I’ve never been before and I’ve labored in fields that baffle, confuse, and sometimes pain me.  I try to make sense of the rocks in my chosen professional “field” and I confess that I cannot make sense of them at all.

Two of our fellow farmers and friends were recently raided on their farm in Overton, Nevada.  Their “crime”?  They were planning to serve fresh food from their garden, free range beef and lamb, prepared by a certified chef in a certified kitchen to their friends and farm members.

Does it confuse you too?  I’m baffled.

In fact I’m beyond baffled, I’m appalled.   I confess that in the past when I’ve seen some of the “food raid” videos I have thought to myself “they must have done something they shouldn’t have, they must have crossed a line somewhere.  A government agency wouldn’t do that…would they?”  But I happen to personally know Monte and Laura Bledsoe, the Nevada farmers who were raided, and what I know of them speaks so loudly of integrity, commitment, and dedication to principles of kindness and service that I can’t believe that they didn’t do everything in their power to comply with any regulations given to them by the health department.  I’ve been to Quail Hollow Farm multiple times, and the Bledsoe’s were just here at our farm in Oregon City two weeks ago.   I’ve seen the amount of effort they put into serving the people in their community, the efforts that they go to bring not only food, but comfort and compassion to their farm members.  I’ve watched Laura travel to Africa to bring the hope of education and freedom to countries that are looking for both.  I’ve heard her, a quietly diligent woman, stand and teach youth and adults alike to work hard, study harder, and to stand up for what they believe in.

Here’s Monte…he really looks like a nefarious character doesn’t he?

And here’s Laura with the Las Vegas chapter president of Slow Foods.  Yup…really suspicious.

Then I watched the videos of the raid, the responses of the Quail Hollow farm members and I ask myself:  if this is what food safety means where have our American freedoms gone?  You can watch the video yourself and read Laura’s words in this article: http://shanonbrooks.com/2011/10/people-live-dirt-roads-monte-laura-bledsoe-quail-hollow-farm-csa/

When friends are not allowed to eat a meal together to celebrate the bounty of the year, when a government official tells a state certified farmer that her food is only fit for a landfill, not even good enough for pigs, when people who have hired a farmer to raise their produce for them are not permitted to eat that food, when that same official tells a concerned citizen “that’s all the information you need to know” …I would say that it is well past time to speak up and say something.

This past year I testified in Salem before a committee that was considering the Oregon Agricultural Reclamation Act sponsored by Friends of Family Farmers.  I asked them to defend my right to produce the food that consumers want.  I was one among a good crowd of farmers asking for the same right, and lobbyists for big ag who were opposed to it.  Several of our farm members made it down to that meeting to show their support, not as farmers but as EATERS, for the freedom to obtain more easily the food they wish to consume.

But it’s not enough.  We MUST keep talking.  We must be diligent in defending our right to consume healthy food…because as this video demonstrates there are people in positions of power who do not believe you have that right.  And we need more voices.

What can you do to make a difference?  Let me give you a couple of suggestions:

  1. Join and support Friends of Family Farmers.  I have been working with them for a while now and I am nothing but impressed with their commitment to preserving your food freedom and the right to farm.  They need more committed members to keep their vision going.  Visit their website at http://www.friendsoffamilyfarmers.org
  2. Join and support The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.  I am currently a member and have found their advice to be a great help.  By helping them defend farmers on a national level you are defending the right to eat the food of your choice. You can see the mission and work of the fund at http://www.ftcldf.org
  3. Last but not least…whenever possible buy your food directly from a farmer.  We are so blessed in this area to be surrounded by farms that are willing to sell direct to consumers.  Find them, buy your food from them, and let your purchasing habits send a loud and clear message that you want to be free to eat good food.  You have no idea how powerful your choice to buy farm fresh and local is to food freedom.  It’s what keeps the farmers growing, it’s what keeps the food available for next year, it’s what help drives the desire to farm sustainably, using natural methods that protect the soil, the water, and the animals and plants that take their living from them.

If we work together we can maintain our right to eat healthy food, raised in a way that builds healthy families and healthy communities.  Is it something you believe in?  Is it something you can defend?  One of my favorite quotes is from the pilot and author of “The Little Prince” Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“Only he can understand what a farm is, what a country is, who shall have sacrificed part of himself to his farm or country, fought to save it, struggled to make it beautiful. Only then will the love of farm or country fill his heart.”

I learned while I was a young girl picking rocks out of a field on my parents farm what sacrifice for the farm meant.  I learned at their side as we traveled the country on back roads and scenic byways, visiting memorials and historic markers along the way about the lives of men and women who sacrificed to give me this land that I farm.  I have felt an obligation to them and to myself to preserve and defend what they lived and died for.  William and I have spent our married life defending it together.  We have labored with the land even when it hasn’t been popular, when our neighbors have accused us of being crazy, evil, or stupid for trying to raise our crops in a regenerative way.  We recently had a neighbor tell us in a very confrontational tone that we were doomed to fail, he didn’t want cows and chickens near his property and that we were fooling ourselves if we thought we’d grow anything but rocks in our fields because this land won’t produce anything else.

It may very well be that we harvest a few rocks from our farm…but then we’ve done it before and we are willing to do it again.  Because those who come after us will have fewer rocks to contend with if we care for our fields well today.  And in the meantime our fields of stone are yielding some pretty delicious “weeds” like these…

And these…

And these…

Thank you so much for supporting C’est Naturelle Farms.  Thank you for speaking up for food freedom with your grocery money.  We know that with the difficult economic times we are in every dollar counts and we don’t take them for granted.  Your commitment gives us the ability to keep going and we don’t take the sacrifice you make lightly.

Together we can till fields of stone and build the foundation of a healthy, free society.  It’s a battle, but if Napoleon was right and “an army travels on its stomach” then at least we’ll go to war well fed.

New Inhabitants in the C’est Naturelle Farms “Forest of Night”

by on October 14, 2011
in Farm Life

One of our farm animals made a recent addition to the farm in my children’s favorite place on the farm, “The Forest of Night”. It has been a great forest for the kids to play in. The have fought battles, raised dragons, circumnavigated the globe, scaled mountains, and been on deadly polar expeditions all without ever leaving those trees. And now it has been transformed into a natural nursery. Enjoy!