This article was originally posted on Cape Breton Local Food Adventure and was written by Alicia Lake.
This blog post has been brewing in my mind since last fall. Now that we are in the clutches of winter it seems I am better able to reflect and write, so finally the time has come to post in this blog for the first time in months!
Late in the fall of 2013 I found myself visiting a local vegetable and egg farm on a Saturday morning. I was there to buy my winter’s worth of potatoes, but found myself being given leeks, celery and eggs. After the transaction (which included me haggling UP the price from next to nothing, to something that could be slightly profitable for the farmer) I was invited in for a visit.
The farmers I was visiting that day were a lovely and friendly couple. They sell products at the farmers market in my town so I know them from there, but this was my first visit to their home. I was struck by their enthusiasm, the multiple talents the wife demonstrated in sewing and baking, along with farming, and by the chickens running around the yard.
We talked about farming and pricing. I spent some time trying to convince them that they should be charging more for their free-range eggs because they have real value over other eggs and should pay for at least the upkeep of the chickens. The wife reluctantly agreed, but the husband told me that, “the chickens are part of the family, and we never make family pay their own way.”
So fittingly, in the next breath this gentlemen asked me how all my projects were going and if I was still only volunteering at the market and at the various other local food initiatives I’m doing. When I told him that I was in fact just volunteering because it is my passion and unfortunately there aren’t many jobs in local food around here, he said, “We’re lucky to have you, if you got paid for all the work you do, you would be a rich girl.”
Although we all laughed about it at the time, as I drove home I began to reflect on what he said, and I have been thinking about it ever since. Very sadly, this man died only a couple of months after having this discussion with me. Perhaps this is partially why I have come to think of that as such a profound moment in my life, but I don’t think that’s just it.
I have come to the conclusion that I am in fact a rich girl. No, I don’t have a high paying job, and I don’t get to spend money on whatever I like, or go on expensive trips every winter, but I think that I have found something much richer.
Since becoming so heavily involved with the local food movement, I have built up a whole community of wonderful farmers, chefs, activists, politicians, bureaucrats, foodies and friends around myself and my family.
I have been able to develop deep and meaningful relationships with the people who produce and prepare my food, and those who work on common local food goals. I have learned a whole new level of trust and mutuality through these relationships. I have developed new habits, like paying for food with blank cheques and having all-local potlucks! I get to participate in totally cool activities like planting community gardens or slaughtering chickens.
I also have people that give me food from their special stores of peaches, grapes, nuts or other exotic things in Cape Breton. People call me to give me recipes, or to tell me how much my food promotion has inspired them. I receive emails and thank-you notes from farmers for the work I do. I am asked to come and speak at events and share my passion about local food. I am constantly filled with feelings of joy and belonging in my community. This is my passion and it makes me richer than you can imagine!