Essay Contest Runner Up: The Story of Eating by Lisa Miskelly

10 Jul

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

The story of eating and the story of farming are one in the same for me, entangled in a loving web of livelihood and passion, work and leisure, early-morning harvests and mid-day meals which satisfy more than bellies, but that cultivate senses.

My senses digest the story of eating: the feel of sore muscles pulsing with the ache of a day’s labor; the sight of an ungrazed pasture decorated with dew-lined webs; the dank smell of earthworms and wet soil after heavy rain; the slight sounds of cows rustling in a dark barn; the taste of the first strawberry of the season, a gift placed into my mouth by a 7-year-old girl as my mud-caked hands transplant beans into soft ground.

It is a story of people – producers, share-members, and friends.  Of kohlrabies so big the neighbors take a photograph, of fall harvest meals so bountiful there better be hungry friends around to share, of kids so enamored to see working horses they gape or giggle at the sight.

It is a story of land. What is offered and what is taken, what is harvested and what is returned, what debris, manure, and legumes are turned into the soil, decomposed into the darkness of earth to be digested, and fed back to our bodies and the bodies of our children’s children.

The story of eating locally, organically, seasonally, welcomes responsibility.  It necessitates a commitment to fulfilling our social responsibility to ensure the accessibility of real food to all—to illuminate a food justice that eliminates the disparity between those who can, and those who cannot, afford to buy food grown by human hands and fertile dirt.

A summer share from Lisa's Good Work Farm

A summer share from Lisa’s Good Work Farm

It is the emergent story of small movements of political action: Don’t molest, or unrightly claim ownership over, these seeds, don’t invade a country so that my food can be trucked cross-country.  A prudent demand for autonomy, liberty, and authentic freedom.

Walking into a field in midsummer, I feel myself living in a world of abundance.  I come into the kitchen bearing some sumptuous delights: garlic scape tendrils, golden yellow summer squash, pungent leaves of basil, armloads of spicy greens to be reduced by heat and steam.

Eating locally stimulates a love affair with the earth and its inhabitants; each meal suggests another opportunity to tempt and honor the palates of my community with meals too good to be born from anything but the earth itself: rich compost, unfathomably complex soil micro-organisms, persistent pollinators, labor of tender bodies and focused minds, long days hauling in hay and harvest—balancing budgets, birthing lambs, seeding kale.

To taste food grown by a farmer, unconditional, unconditioned food, unadulterated, respected food, is to taste the history of the landscape, of the animal, of the farmer’s craft.  To eat this food is to recognize what is required of us. Care for land, heal economic disparities, teach children, learn to cook.  It is not a solution alone, but part of the web, part of the process, the momentum, the promise, the gift.

About the author: Lisa Miskelly co-runs Good Work Farm in Emmaus, PA and previously co-ran Great Song Farm in Red Hook, NY, both of which use organic practices. 

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One Response to “Essay Contest Runner Up: The Story of Eating by Lisa Miskelly”

  1. Peter Gregg July 23, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    You capture the essence of earth-friendly farming and local eating in an intriguing and entertaining essay. Well done Ms. Miskelly.

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