We had to get the hoophouse covered before winter came, otherwise, there would have been no point to all the struggle of getting the frame up. We had an amazing group of friends lined up to come on short notice, as we had to try to get this plastic up and over the frame on a day that was not even slightly windy. And as you may know, fall tends to be a windy season. One morning looked promising, and so we made the calls and put a gorgeous pork roast in the oven so it’d ready after the friends showed up. All 6 of us went to work, first stretching the plastic out along the outside length of the hoophouse. There was precarious balancing on ladders, rocks tied into the plastic with rope to create a way to throw the edge of the plastic over the frame…it was crazy. But as we pulled the plastic taught and got the wiggle wires snapped into place in their tracks, our new “barn” was set up for use. Just in time!
Thanksgiving was approaching, and turkey harvesting was right around the corner. We had 25 beautiful birds and lots of last minute emails to finalize who was indeed committed to coming out to get and help harvest their gorgeous turkey. There was one awkward connection with a woman who insisted that the requirement to come participate had not been made clear. She wanted the turkey, but did not want to come to get it, and did NOT want to witness it’s death. I had to admit as I examined my email history with her over the past months, that I hadn’t made it totally clear, I’d assumed she’d known. First lesson in interactive agriculture; the farmer has to be very clear. We figured out a way to make up for this miscommunication, but we learned an important lesson, going forward.
We’d had to plan turkey harvesting around my day job (in retail foods, it’s THE busiest week of the year) and I had only one day that I’d be not working that weekend before Thanksgiving. All of the turkey customers were lined up with the details of the harvest day, and we thanked our stars for such wonderful folks, and hoped for excellent weather. Then I got an email from Daniel Klein from the Perennial Plate. Did we have any turkeys available, and would we be interested in them coming to film us during turkey harvest and be featured in an episode? Ack! Super last minute, super great opportunity, and we’d planned on saving that one extra turkey for winter, but ummmmmm….Yes, and YES.
The morning that everyone was scheduled to come out, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we woke up to snow and ice covering everything. It was a nightmare! We could barely walk down the path without slipping; it had snowed, then rained and now it was below freezing, and the weather report didn’t show any warming trend for the day. It was overcast, so no sun would be melting the ice either. We panicked, and our customers were emailing and calling, frantic as the roads in the Cities were no better. We were suddenly looking at 25 turkeys to harvest by ourselves, with no help on the way, and no customers coming to pick up turkeys anytime soon either. It was a horrible feeling, and it was a learning experience too- we could not set up turkey harvesting to only be possible on one day, and dependent on customers to come help.
We set up the harvesting station in the newly covered hoophouse, had a big breakfast between fielding all the calls and emails, and then a miracle happened….people started to show up. Our friend Jean had driven out, not knowing the roads were so treacherous until she was on them, and figured she’d just go slow, and she made it safely, until she got to the hill on our road where her car slipped and slid, so she walked up to the farm. Her arrival brought us such hope! Then, another customer arrived, and our farmer friend Josh arrived with one of his interns, and told us he knew we’d be in trouble with the weather, and figured if there was a day we REALLY needed help, this was it. We started with the turkey harvesting, one bird at a time, and then more people came, and then the film crew and it finally warmed up a bit, and the day turned into a beautiful one of connection and documentation. We were SO very grateful for our farm’s community and supporters, we really couldn’t have done all that on our own.
Early the next morning, Daniel sent us the episode he’d stayed up all night editing. It was emotional, it was intense, and he put it to some very heart wrenching music. He said he was worried it might be a bit too much, but he was releasing it to the world on his website. (I am a bit hesitant to share this link, because a) I am a dork, and b) you’ll read why.) The episode showed the connection and participation and respect of people and their food, raised by our farm. But this was an awkward period of time for our farm, and I made a HUGE mistake. I was so used to claiming ownership of the farm, because it had been just mine since it’s inception. This endeavor was now OURS, but I didn’t make that clear as I talked on film. It was a hurtful mistake. I felt awful, but I honestly hadn’t yet made the transition in my brain from mine, to ours. I felt so terrible that my dear love who had worked his butt off and contributed just as much in everything, was not given any credit, and it was all my fault. We had some big talks, and I resolved to change. This farm was now ours.
The video brought forth quite an online thrashing on a couple of vegan websites. Even though it was our farm, I was the one filmed collecting the turkeys, explaining how the kill would happen, and then, cutting a turkey’s throat. I was torn apart in words on those websites. I felt violated, misunderstood, wrongly labeled, and actually a bit scared. Animal rights people can be terrifying and dangerous in defense of their beliefs. I understood where they were coming from, but I had left that way of thinking. We were participating in the ethical side of meat production, as a caring and thoughtful participant, as were our customers. We were part of an ethical omnivore wave that was entering new territory – being honest and open about respectfully taking an animal’s life that was well-lived, in order to eat. Our farm was not the first to do this in any terms, but anyone who embraces the full circle of participating in life and death is a target for vegans. It didn’t matter to those vegans if the slaughter was done with thanks and reverence, it was murder. I was a killer.