For Who Comes Next

Life on the road.

For the past week, Susan, (my girlfriend) and I, have been travelling the state, visiting different towns, each day discovering new restaurants and theaters, staying in campsites and motels . It's seemed like a new adventure each hour, and we've been the recipient of so much kindness from the good people of Minnesota.

Today, we woke up and said goodbyes to Lesley and Daniel, friends of Susan who hosted us graciously for three nights. It was the first time on our trip we were in one place for so long, and we both felt recharged and refreshed.

 We headed South to Northfield where we got some food from the Just Food Co-Op. A mid-day snack was shared on the banks of the Cannon River before we stopped over at the Grand Event Center to test out our DVD.

 We eventually found Bonnie, who helped us get the projector, and then found the tech-savvy Chuck, who's the owner, and together we set up chairs and electronics and prepared the beautiful old space with hundred-foot-high ceilings for the evening's screening.

 We tested out the video and sound, and all was go, so we headed out to the food event.

Really good local food from James Gang Eatery. (Photo S. Yao)

 We shared an intimate meal at James Gang Coffee and Eatery, where owners Melanie and Jeff had been sure to source the meat from a local chicken farmer- Elizabeth- who was there. It's always a pleasure to share a meal with the person who raised the food you're eating. We pulled a number of tables together and talked with people about the health benefits of local unprocessed foods, and got a chance to meet some of the farmers, like Dave, Flo, and Kathy who would later join in our discussion.

We pulled the tables together and shared a community meal. Elizabeth, the farmer who raised the food on left with babe in lap. (Photo by S. Yao)

 Back at the theater, Susan set up to sell tickets and I talked with people as they came in. It was a late arriving crowd, so for a while it looked like it might be just us. A couple of late surges of people filled up some seats, and we got started a few minutes after 7 with about 30 people spread out through the space.

 Afterwords the energy in the room was decidedly good. People moved up closer to the front, and we all partook in a conversation.

 There was a discussion of how it would be good if we can get the documentary to FFA chapters in Minnesota. Some folks had connections that we will follow up on.

Randy Clay of Bon Appetít Management Company (BAMCo) who provides local food to students of St. Olaf (Photo by S. Yao)

 Randy talked about how the documentary helped him to realize that there aren't good and evil farmers, that if anything is flawed it is parts of our current system of agriculture, a system that puts all the risk on the farmers, and gives the farmers too little of the food dollar spent at the grocery store. He works for Bon Appetit Management Company, a wonderful company that provides foods for private universities and for companies. They source their food locally, and are provide food service for St. Olaf and Carlton in Northfield.

 There were some themes that were particularly powerful.

Dave & Flo, long time farmers in SE Minnesota (Photo by S. Yao)

Dave- of Cedar Summit Farm- talked about how we need to respect the soil. He and his wife Flo have been grazing animals and planting multiple species of crops for a long time. He said there's a patch on a neighboring acre, where corn and soy have been growing in rotation. For those who don't know, corn and soy are the two widest grown crops in most of America's heartland. By growing just these crops, and using artificial fertilizer we often lose our topsoil, which leads to erosion. Dave said that side by side, with his land and the neighboring, you can see how his soil is rich, and the grass green. Across the way, where only corn and soy have grown, the soil has been washed away, and it's only rocks and sand.

 When he expressed frustration about the possibility of our nation's agriculture ever changing from our current monocrop of corn and soy, his wife Flo was quick to interject some humorous optimism, that she thought it would change sooner than Dave thought.

Kathy talks about the importance of thinking about the next generation, today. (Photo by S. Yao)

 Kathy- of Simple Harvest Farm- talked about the importance of not just thinking about ourselves. That when she farms, her aim is to leave her 20 acres better than she found it, so that the next generation of people can farm it, and raise food from it, and pass it along to the next generation. It was a powerful thought, that you could feel resonate through the walls of the Grand Event Center.

 We ran over our allotted time, but Bonnie and Chuck, were incredibly gracious and allowed us to stay later, and we were thrilled to hear that Bonnie had really enjoyed the documentary. Their kindness and optimism was inspirational. 

 Again, people congregated and talked long after the official talk ended. We said goodbye to Bonnie, and then ran into Randy in the parking lot and decided to share a celebratory root beer and horchata at a nearby cafe.

 Buzzing with the afterglow of another uplifting night, Susan and I drove back to the Big Woods campsite, far enough away from any city lights that we saw many, many stars.


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published this page in Ruminations 2012-07-20 15:03:39 -0400