Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Family and the Farm

Last weekend, Todd, the kids and I visited Kinsey Family Farm.  We were looking for one of those nice, fall family activities.  This was new to us, so we decided to try it.  The day was gorgeous beyond all reason, and we had an amazing time. 

Just north of Cumming, Kinsey Family Farm is not a long drive for us.  Once a Christmas tree farm, they have added attractions and activities and it is now a great family day out.  To get there, you go north on Hwy 400 and turn off just as you get a spectacular view of the mountains (onto Jot-Em Down Road).  You can learn more at 

Our kids had a great time.  Vivian really took to feeding the goats.  Roland braved it with his daddy’s help.  Because my kids have special needs, anything they enjoy or do with independence is a great thing.  They loved the hay ride, fish feeding and the fresh apples with caramel (with which they fed themselves, not the fish).  Most of all, I think they loved running in the grass and being outdoors with just a little less asphalt around. 

Because I am interested in food, I am interested in farms.  In fact, they are growing in popularity nowadays and not just because of the changing seasons.  There seems to be a growing general awareness of the food they produce.  The locavore and slow food movements are taking off.  Organics are becoming much more popular.  It seems to be a trend that we are following and, for once, a healthy one.

Personally, I would love to be a locavore.  A locavore is someone who eats only what is grown and produced locally, or within a certain radius.  (The presence of the term in affirms its place in our culture.)  I love the notion of living by such an ideal.  Frankly, though, I don’t see how I possibly can.  I wouldn’t begin to have the time to do the research involved.  My shaded yard provides neither acreage nor sunlight enough to grow a great deal of food.  If someone were to hand me a “how-to” manual for Cumming, Georgia, I swear I would try it.  But for now, much as I would love to, I don’t see the reality in making such a total shift. 

Instead of lugging around several pounds of guilt about this, however, I do what I can.  Each summer now, I plant tomatoes, herbs and various other experiments (on my deck where the sun is).  Every year, I try to add something new – sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  What I grow won’t feed an army, but will give my family a few healthy meals.  I have increased my shopping at farmers markets, and I try to support our local growers.  Gradually, I am learning the changes to make and how to slowly move that boulder of lifestyle.  And I share these ideas with other folks whenever I can.
I think, and hope, this move toward more natural, local, fresh, healthy food isn’t just a popular – and therefore, fleeting – trend.  Certainly, it could be.  With so many choices and no lack for resources, we have every opportunity to be followers of fashion.  But I would love to think, instead, that we have looked carefully at our options and made a decision for something better.  When much of our food is processed and its ingredients mysterious, there is an indisputable appeal in the simple, straightforward and nourishing.

I think most of us are drawn to farms and the fresh food they provide because we long to touch on something that is real.  Much as we love our modern conveniences, we also look back to a time when living was less virtual, less technological.  So we jump at the chance to encounter creation as it is made directly by the Creator.  I don’t know that God has a preference for rural over urban, but I do know that my encounters with the divine happen most often when I am surrounded by the miracles of seed and soil becoming plant and shade and sustenance.  When I visit a farm or any place where things grow, it has a sense of coming home.  In fact, it is.

While I don’t have a good story to go with it, here is the recipe for this post.  It’s a good one.  I put it together quickly in order to squeeze in 30 minutes of pre-bedtime play with the kids.  It worked.

Blessed eating!

Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
2 c. sugar                                             1 stick margarine
4 T. cocoa                                            3 c. old fashioned oats
½ c. peanut butter                           1 T. vanilla
½ c. milk
Combine sugar, cocoa, milk, and butter.  Put over high heat and let come to a boil, stirring constantly.l  Boil 1-2 minutes; remove from heat and add oatmeal, peanut butter, and vanilla.  Mix and drop on waxed paper. Allow to cool.  Makes 24 large cookies.  -  Laura Taylor


  1. A couple of thoughts:

    Chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies are culinary heaven! Is there anything more perfect? Pralines from River Street in Savannah come close. But this is my favorite food item in the world. I notice your friend(?) uses milk and not condensed milk, as some recipes call for. What would be the difference? What does condensed milk do for you when you make desserts like this?

    Also, when I've made them in the past, it's often hit-or-miss. I simply don't know exactly how long to boil the mixture (and how hard) in order for them to set properly. Sometimes they don't set, and I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I know if you boil them too long, they'll set immediately and that's no good, either. Any advice?

    On your larger point, I've been convicted about the centrality of farming as I've read Wendell Berry recently. He's in lock-step with most of what you say. Even if you can't grow your own garden (which he recommends), he says we should all meet a farmer—and even buy directly from them.

    Here's a problem with this trend, however: It raises a social justice issue. Locavorism (a term I'm already sick of) is for rich people. I'm not saying you're rich, but you know what I mean. The poorer you are, the less able you are to afford organic and locally grown food. I read a sociology book in seminary, by the way, that argues that this disparity explains, in part, why the very wealthy in this country are (in general) thin, and poor people (in general) are fat. Cheaper food is caloric and fatty.

    Before the turn of the 20th century, relative fatness in the population was exactly opposite. Rich people, who could afford more abundant and richer foods, were fat; poor people, who could barely subsist, were thin. I remember a quote from the book: "Rich people got thin when poor people got fat." Maybe that's a bit blunt, but it makes sense to me.

  2. Brent, thanks for your comment!

    On the recipe issue: agreed on Chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies being heaven! But I can't answer your question regarding the making of, variations on and pitfalls of the recipe. This is my first and only time making them. It seemed a little thin at first before I spooned it out which I assumed meant they hadn't cooled enough. But I also added more peanut butter since it is so hard to squish pb down to get an accurate measure in the first place.

    Regarding your second and larger point, you really are right. I have been very sad to see that the kinds of foods and practices that are healthy/good/sustainable are so often in the realm of "elite" simply by virtue of their cost. This is especially tragic when only a generation or two ago, these were the things the "common folk" did in order to simply live, growing one's own food or buying it from the market down the street. I don't mean to oversimplify this issue, but it is true that the once common food production practices are now a matter of privilege.

    Our system has gotten very out of whack when our worst foods (nutritionally speaking) are the afforable options, and the basic building blocks like fresh fruits and vegetables are less accessible. I tend to think that home gardening is a good place to start putting things in a better order. The cost is often more in labor than cash (although there are, of course, expenses involved), plus it would bring both fresh food and a fair education in feeding yourself.