In The Third Plate, an entertaining and thought-provoking book about broadening our agricultural horizons both on the farm and in the kitchen, Dan Barber writes that “the very best farming systems are constantly in flux, adapting and readapting to balance the needs of a healthy ecology with the imperative to feed people.”
At a Wednesday CSA pick-up at Working Hands Farm in Hillsboro, Oregon, that “imperative to feed people” stood out clearly, just as it had when I observed the farm’s CSA pick-up last year. I admired the handmade crates, engraved with the farm’s name and overflowing with vegetables and fruit. These crates rested on tables laid with gingham throw-cloths in front of an “Open” placard. A cooler full of eggs from the ladies of Chateau Poulet sat on the ground, occasionally lifted open by members grabbing a dozen eggs as they returned their empty crates. And in the middle of it all stood farmers Jess Powers and Brian Martin, talking, encouraging, and laughing.
It’s bizarre how we wrap tasks in an artificial scaffolding of lists and timelines, knowing that, inevitably, a surprising gust of wind will blow through, crumbling your weak scaffolding as you scramble to rearrange timelines and to-dos. When it comes to yard maintenance and gardening goals for this summer, I entered June with a firm idea that we’d focus on growing vegetables in the pre-existing raised beds, while watching the patterns in the yard, observing sunlight, shade, and radiant heat.
Michael Pollan. Marion Nestle. Will Allen. Alice Waters. Dan Barber.
These men and women may not have reached tabloid-cover celebrity status, but they’re household names to anyone interested in sustainable food, constantly advocating for a more resilient food system. Over the next several decades, these advocates will continue to influence food policy and make known the inequities, inefficiencies, and blatant corruption inherent to our current food system. Despite their varied backgrounds, locales, and methods, they share a mutual desire for a more equitable, transparent, and engaged food culture. They also have something else in common: they’re all over the age of 40.