September 24th, 2013

Farming Under the Influence

September, elliptical month, month of transitions, and the farm is truly, madly beautiful at the moment: late fruit hanging ripe and slack, sun jetting through the thinning trees, the primal clarity of the light.

SEPT BLOG -8223Mornings in the flower farm are an experience to be savored, particularly in September, with its long, low shadows and luxuriant growth.

The whole place seems high on itself, and at levels way beyond the legal limit. It doesn’t help that I photograph food and gardens for a living (and what is a farm if not a food garden?), so I’m tuned in to all this beauty at insanely high decibels.

Once the visual dopamine pulses, it takes me and wastes me and I’m left to photograph and farm under the influence (an agricultural misdemeanor in most states).

They don’t call us Stoned Gate Farm for nothing.

SEPT BLOG -6189

A late-season harvest of greens with scarlet nasturtium blossoms.

If I’m not careful, my license to farm might be revoked, or worse, be sent to Ag rehab, where compulsive locavores, foodies and organic micro farmers sit in sad, slump-shouldered circles and come clean about their obsessions.

It’s an occupational hazard to fall hard for farming. Once it’s got a hold of you, it’s like a badger, and won’t let go until it crushes bone, or spirit, or energy. If you’re lucky (and luck is as much a part of farming as planning and planting), you get to the end of the season, as we have, and are truly thankful for your magical and productive piece of earth.

This late season buzz is the farm’s way of deeply imprinting–before the big chill of Winter–how important it will be to start all over again next Spring. Like any organism, its MO is just to keep on keepin’ on.

SEPT BLOG -9039A harvest of fuzzy, misshapen quince from the orchard will be transformed into tart preserves.  Lucky us.

My MO is to keep this small farm going strong, in all of its permutations. Besides the book I’m writing and shooting about Stonegate for Rodale (Growing Beautiful Food, 2015), I photographed the farm for Better Homes & Gardens last week: a lot of visual scrutiny and creative madness, but all for the best. If the broader aim of a small, local CSA farm is not just membership, but education and inspiration, about turning people on to eating locally and well, then being a media farmer is a plus.

SEPT BLOG -1992Jewel-like eggplant is almost too pretty to eat.

Ironically, when I lose a CSA member because they’ve decided to grow their own, I feel as though I’ve done my job.

We’ll continue to serve it up this Fall for those who signed up for a late season share, and we plan to bring it on again next year with our 2014 CSA, unless, of course, we lose you to your own back yard. –Mb

Visit us at Stonegate Farm

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