According to JLo, a sister Puerto Rican born and raised in New York City, my homies, or peeps, are the boys and girls I grew up with on the streets of the South Bronx. Well, yes and no. I had lots of good friends on Tiffany Street, but my heart and life have been elsewhere for a long time.
I’ve lived in Minnesota and Wisconsin (first one and then the other – no bi-location for me) for most of my adult life, moving to smaller and smaller communities over the years.
These days, my homies don’t ride subways to Times Square. They drive tractors to the lower forty.
For example, this evening I spent a couple of hours in the company of farmers working to formalize a local farmers’ cooperative – an organization created to help our small-family, sustainable farms market and distribute our vegetables, fruits and meats locally. For us that’ll mean deliveries within a radius if 70 miles or so; a service area that includes the Minneapolis and St. Paul, metro area.
I’m excited that our farm, Bull Brook Keep, is a member of the Hungry Turtle Farmer’s Cooperative. It’s a building block in a plan to foster a vibrant local food hub that will benefit farmers and food lovers for miles around. Many of the young farmers I conversed with this evening bring years of experience, and truck loads of energy, to this effort. Lots of credit goes to the husband and wife team of Peter Henry and Kari Wenger, brains and force behind Resilient Northern Habitats, a local nonprofit dedicated to designing and modeling whole natural systems that regain “the balance between nature and human settlement.”
It’s heady stuff for farmers so grounded in soil health, clean groundwater, healthful foods and family.
And to think, next week we’ll meet up with another 3,000 like-minded producers, policymakers, researchers and advocates at the 25th annual MOSES conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) organization champions the strict standards and educational support needed to build the strength and numbers of farmers and processors of organic and sustainably produced foods nationwide.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I grew up in the Bronx. I loved the sounds and flavors of a dozen nations right in my neighborhood. Today, I try to bring city lessons into my Wisconsin farm by providing:
- Young families with cooking strategies and recipes that help them prepare healthful meals within a busy schedule.
- Grass-fed beef packages for the smaller, apartment-sized freezer.
- Deliveries to drop-off sites in the Twin Cities.
- Opportunities to visit the farm. Please come walk the pastures with us!
As I’m writing this, it’s become really clear to me that I’ve got two sets of peeps – the city set and the country set. No, that’s not quite right. The more I think about this, the more it seems these groups are melding – at least at the edges.
Lots of my farmer friends grew up in a city and were trained for non-farming jobs in teaching, graphic arts, engineering, baking, law enforcement and other occupations. Eventually, they discovered a deep love for the sun on their faces, the smell of rich earth in their noses, and dirt under their fingernails.
At the same time, more and more city friends are coming out to the farm to walk our fields, spend time with our cows, share coffee and a sandwich in our kitchen, and get an open invitation to visit again, soon.
And me? I’ve got to have a regular fix at a St. Paul Caribou, an indie book store, and a sit-down with my daughter at an Uptown bistro or sushi restaurant.
In the end, what is a homie? It is someone who knows your values, who has shared important times with you, who has shared their dreams with you, and who may count on you to help them live their dreams. Homies provide us with a sense of belonging to a community we understand. One that accepts us – in varying degrees – for our gifts and despite our flaws.
If you’re going to the MOSES conference next week, I’ll see you there. If not, let’s catch up over a cappuccino in Highland – soon.