Essential Work

 

Sandhill Farms on July 12, 2014, in Eden, Utah. Photo by Kim RaffPhoto by Kim Raff

Written by Mike Lynch, WCG Community Education Program Director

A few weeks ago, I participated in my first Farm Mob with Slow Food Utah and Real Food Rising at Sandhill Farms. I was imagining an Orwellian kind of affair with Marxist animals. Instead, the mob consisted of about a dozen high-school-aged kids from Real Food Rising, and about fifteen more people of all ages who were connected to WCG, Slow Food, or Sandhill Farms.

Aside: Real Food Rising runs Farm Mobs most every weekend with a group of high-school age kids who will boost your faith in the future of America. These kids are driven, focused, and put me to shame with their work ethic. It’s a real inspiration to work with the Real Food Rising crew.

Sandhill Farms is tucked into the mountains of northern Utah. Here, Pete Rasmussen cultivates a wide variety of rare garlic. I’d never met Pete, but had heard about his reputation as a garlic guru. I was excited to see his operation and hear about his love for garlic, however, when we arrived, Pete wasn’t there.

His dad met us, and as we gathered for an introduction, he explained that nine months ago, on a cold and stormy October night (of course), Pete was working hard to get all of his garlic planted. I was curious where this story was going – would it be a modern retelling of some Washington Irving short story? Instead, his dad told us “Garlic wasn’t the only thing Pete planted that night.” Well then. Pete’s wife had given birth to a healthy boy two days earlier. Congrats to the new parents!

Pete’s parents, along with farm hands Luca and Richard, set us to work. We had a harvesting crew, a sorting crew, a cleaning crew, and a braiding crew.

Sandhill Farms on July 12, 2014, in Eden, Utah. Photo by Kim Raffphoto by Kim Raff

Luca and Richard had spent the previous night pitchforking the soil. The garlic came right out. Sorters separated the good from the bad. Damaged garlic went home with us. Perks!

Sandhill Farms on July 12, 2014, in Eden, Utah. Photo by Kim Raffphoto by Kim Raff

Sandhill Farms on July 12, 2014, in Eden, Utah. Photo by Kim Raffphoto by Kim Raff

Sandhill Farms on July 12, 2014, in Eden, Utah. Photo by Kim Raffphoto by Kim Raff

Sandhill Farms on July 12, 2014, in Eden, Utah. Photo by Kim Raffphoto by Kim Raff

Sandhill Farms on July 12, 2014, in Eden, Utah. Photo by Kim Raffphoto by Kim Raff

 

The cleaning crew brushed away dirt with toothbrushes until the papery white of the garlic gleamed. Braiders wove heads of garlic into gorgeous braids.

Sandhill Farms on July 12, 2014, in Eden, Utah. Photo by Kim Raffphoto by Kim Raff

 

Afterword, we shared a meal together, then washed off the sweat and dirt in the cold water of the reservoir nearby. It was a great day.

I really love going out to small farms like Sandhill. It’s great to know the human power and effort that goes into the food that’s produced at places like this. I love feeling the resistance in the garlic’s roots and hearing the satisfying pop as it yields. I loved the meticulous details of scrubbing away the dirt with a toothbrush, and seeing the contrast between the stacks of dirty, freshly harvested heads and the pristine woven braids of the finished product. It’s a chance to feel essential.

Sandhill Farms on July 12, 2014, in Eden, Utah. Photo by Kim Raffphoto by Kim Raff

Follow photographer Kim Raff on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kim.raff or on instagram at @kimraffphoto.

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