What makes a farm? Chickens, goats, cows, a garden, good soil, rolling acres are all accidental qualities of a farm. Ultimately though it’s about the people who form the community, and despite differences of ideology or perspective create a family of sorts based on shared geographical terrain.
On Saturday, my parents, cousins, grandfather, aunt, and neighbors gathered to begin cultivating the garden for next year. It involved cutting down brush, probing for the taproots of weeds that extended deep into the soil and resisted prying hands with the same lively stubbornness of mussels in the mud. These practical chores manifested our communal desire to respond in gratitude to Matt Gonsalves the man who tended the garden throughout the summer. Each of us benefited from the rich red tomatoes, explosively hot chilly peppers, leafy and luscious kale greens, peas, and beans.
The work party was an opportunity for all of us to come together and simply enjoy each other’s company whether it was listening in as my cousin–fresh off completing a half marathon in impressive time–broached the status of her Colombian-born boyfriend or watching as an intergenerational bond of camaraderie formed between my 90 year old grandfather and the 6th grade tennis dynamo going to the U.N. School in New York City. Those two made an effective pair trimming back forsythia branches and combing the apple trees for the finest apples. Two and a half hours outside of the frenetic pressure cooker that is Manhattan this garden proved a blessing enabling me to spend time with people who have known me longer than I can remember.
One criticism of the age in which we live is that despite our penchant for novel technology and our boasting of an interconnected world we can still find a way to be isolated creatures. Tuned in to the latest trends, but tuned out to the people who should be closest to us. Thankfully the antidote is not ridiculously difficult. It’s simply making the time–in this case two hours on a Saturday morning–to work together with the option of spending an equal amount of time feasting together on barbequed hot dogs, cheeseburgers, corn, as well as beer. The best place to build peace in the world is not always in the worst war-torn region, but the place that I call home.