Saturday, November 24, 2007

Agritourism vs. working on the farm

Funny how I was just talking about requiring turkey customers to spend a day on our farm, and today I read this in the NY Times: Down on the Farm With Your Sleeves Rolled Up, an article about agritourism, where farms charge people to visit and sometimes work.

I really don't like the idea of agritourism, as I think people visiting farms for sleigh rides completely miss the point that most people need to understand -- it takes work to grow food in a way that is sustainable. I really don't think anyone learns much of importance by taking a sleigh ride in the country or feeding a baby animal for 10 minutes. In some ways it might even do more harm than good. Sleigh rides and baby animals are fun, and while that is part of farm life, it's only one tiny segment of it. When that is the only thing that people see, they get the idea that farm life is this Utopian existence. It's not. I love living out here, but not because it's perfect. Like Thoreau, I appreciate all parts of it, the joyful, the confusing, and the devastating. Learning to live with nature is a constant learning experience. One never knows all the answers, and each new day is filled with opportunities and surprises, some wonderful and some not.

Little of that knowledge is obtained in the few minutes it takes to feed a baby animal, and none of it during a sleigh ride. You might begin to get an appreciation of it in a day, but to really understand farm life, it would take at least a few days or a week. And it's not just any week. We're hibernating during winter, the garden is frozen over, and the animals are just hanging out too. There are some days in spring where I feel like I've lived a month in 12 hours. Summer is not too crazy, but as fall draws near, we're kicking into high gear again, trying to prepare for winter. Maybe this is why some people say I should write a book. I suppose this is my passion -- I really want people to understand where their food comes from.

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