“City Girl” Visits Elsworth Family Farm

Jesse atop the Combine with Bill Elsworth


Of course, we have decided to head to the source: farmers!  If you have seen the movie, Food Inc., you are well aware that our picturesque family farms with red barns, grassy nooks, and grazing animals are dwindling in reality.  As the U.S. agriculture system has been transformed, many small farms have been eliminated and replaced by large businesses for industrial production.  As a result, the number of farms in the U.S. dropped from 7 million in 1930 to 2 million in 2000.”  And how many of those 2 million produced 75% of the nation’s farm output???  Just 3%!!!!  Basically, out with the local, family farmers and in with massive industrial farms.  Well, what does that mean in the long run when a few farms are producing most of the food crops, and less local farms are able to compete? We wanted to find out what we’re missing out on if this trend continues, so we went off to visit some of these family farms which have survived this massive downsizing of our farming heritage.  Lucky for us, with Mary’s internship, we were able to check in with some farmers in both the U.S. and Bangladesh, and we’ll share the contrast with you all as well!

This “City Girl” spent the day with Bill Elsworth and fam at the Elsworth Family Farm, a family-run, local, natural farm in upstate, NY laughing at myself as I awkwardly asked questions about the simplest of farm tools, machinery, and farm life.  I loved the very quick comeback AND reminder that they understood as I confused using the terms  tractor and combine; I didn’t even attempt some other names and tools!  In fact, “City Girl” fit me perfectly for how I was feeling.  I promised that if they ever came into my world for a while, I would patiently take them around the same way they did me- with humor and understanding!!

Lessons Learned: Today was a reality check; I am disconnected from the production of food, the care of soil, the slaughter of meat, and the work of the land.  And actually, I am even disconnected from the available alternatives to the apartment/house package with utilities that has become a norm in most areas: my cozy reality.

(Non-GMO) Corn and sunflower seeds fuel the fire

How many of us are disconnected?  The suburban/urban life is creating a distance further from our land, farms and gardens than I ever realized.  After spending some time on the opposite end of our food production chain, it feels as if I should have been there long ago.  I have to say… this was a fun, powerful, and magical day full of pride for farmers and those working the land… sun-up to sun-down.  Not only did I have the privilege of a farm tour and a climb up top the combine, but I spent a day hanging, conversing, and laughing with those who have never lost sight of the importance of the work they do and the connection between care of the land and care of one another.  

The Elsworth’s main work is growing all-natural animal feed; they shared how people travel from as far away as 4 hours to buy from them and that business has definitely increased over the last few years. Buyers often ask about GMOs and their feed-growing practices, as they have chosen not to use GMO seed nor plant GM crops. Nearest their smaller plot of land, there were some GM crop fields in the area so they know very well of the increased use of such seeds. But, citing health concerns and decisions made long ago, they themselves stick to what they consider as the more natural route and are happy to talk about what they do for a living, day in and day out.  They feed their animals (the pigs, turkeys, cows, and emus) the same all-natural feed which they make.  They also offer a wide range of custom field work to surrounding farms. Our posted footage of their introduction provides necessary insight into what it is they, and so many other family farmers, do to care for all of us! The day’s adventure was chock full of information. On site, in addition to the farm machinery and tools, they also have a mill to make the feed.

on-site Mill

As this is the off-season, they were clearing the land of debris in the fields and completing repairs on one of their tractors.”There are no sick days” said Bill.  And, rarely are there vacations, either.  In fact, Bill said he and his wife bought a trailer a few years ago and the only vacation they’ve taken since the purchase was for a farm show.  During harvest seasons, 12 hour days are the norm and they rely on strong teamwork to get the job done.  It’s not just a job for them; it’s a way of life.

A Change of Perspective: Soon, the snow could be seen coming up over the mountains, so we were warned by the Elsworth’s to get on the road if we wanted to avoid it.  Watching the sky darken in the distance, holding my green, dinosaur-looking Emu egg, and smiling from a story they told about a calf (Petunia) they rescued who now acts like one of the dogs, I felt that ‘magic’ of being connected to nature, food, and people.  This trip was when my own mind started to solidify a feeling of connection to these alternatives of natural, family, and local farming.  We can’t lose this!  I felt my energy and attention turning to the important work done in cultivating the land… It’s my hope that this project contributes to the growing movement focusing on the work of small to medium, local, natural and organic, family and community farms and gardens.  We are all part of the solution.  Us disconnected “City folk” (I’m well aware some are not as naive and far removed as most of us!) have lots to learn.  Thank you to those who have worked and are working the land, caring for the soil, humanely raising the animals, and producing the crops which  become our food and drink.  It was a pleasure to spend the day with the hardworking, patient, kind, and funny Elsworth family. And, thank you for allowing me to share this journey with you all!

When’s the last time you went out to your local farm and checked out what they are up to?   I highly recommend paying them a visit!

Side Note: An Unexpected Surprise: As we broke bread over lunch after a few hours of farm touring, we were presented with a surprise parting gift: an Emu egg!  For those who follow our facebook page, you already know this was all the rage for us!  In my naivety and ‘city girl’ style, I first accepted the egg, held it in my hands, and before I knew what I was doing had asked if this egg would hatch???  Because of course, I pictured an emu running along the beach with me in pursuit.  Earlier, they had shared the hysterical story of when an emu had kicked a woman in the chest when she cornered it while attempting to catch the bird (because apparently, that’s what they do when cornered: kick their legs out!). They had warned her not to trap it but she was intent on doing so, and of course it ended badly for her: on the ground catching her breath!  Thankfully, they laughed off my ridiculous question and told me to use the egg to make a large batch of french toast. 🙂

Emu egg departing gift from Elsworth Family Farm

*Haven’t yet seen the footage from cracking this egg open??!  Click here!

About A Patented Life

Documentary-Style Social Work Project December 15, 2011 – April 1, 2012 Our Mission This is about seeds. A Patented Life is a project documenting our 6 week personal rejection of the genetically modified seeds that compromise the food on our tables, small farms around the world, and our relationship to the land. Through genetic engineering and US patent law, Monsanto Inc., the company which brought us Agent Orange, leads the way in dominating our world’s seed supply. The purpose of this project is to activate the public to stop Monsanto’s genetic experiment on our food and livelihoods in its tracks. We are returning to real foods and inviting eaters of the world to do the same. Goals *To get people to stop consuming GMO products by sowing seeds of doubt around the safety and ethics of genetic engineering(GE) *Contribute to the work of existing community movements about this human rights issue Come Join Us!! Here are a few ways to get involved: *Subscribe and Contribute photographs, articles, thoughts, experiences, and questions to: A Patented Life on Facebook (Community page) apatentedlife.wordpress.com Ready to go GMO free? Join us anytime from January 15th- February 26th, 2012. We are going for 6 weeks- Join us for a day, a week, or even multiple weeks and keep us posted on the experience! Or just follow our journey, join in the discussion, and check out our Task of the Week on our facebook page. Looking forward to the organic adventure with everyone!! Together, we are stronger! Ready to be filmed? Contact us for an interview! Email: apatentedlifejm@gmail.com

Posted on April 22, 2012, in Farming, Jess. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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