I live in an older neighborhood in midtown Nashville. Mature trees and jungle-like overgrowth create a shady enclave in my backyard, and the postage stamp front “anti-lawn” has a sunny plot devoted to growing a few herbs and vegetables.
A true urban dweller, I do glean pleasure from the natural world in small ways:
From keeping up with the flurry of bright yellow and house finches at my backyard feeder,
to babying the first tomato (!) in my garden patch out front.
These interactions not only pull me out of kitchen world, or off my home office desk chair. They help keep me grounded in the day-to-day, keep my heart open.
But, when I make rare trips to the country, I experience a larger sense of place.
Quite simply, I am awed by the dedicated–and gritty–work of small family farmers. Theirs is not a life I could lead, but a life I admire. They are heroes, integral to the workings of a healthy planet.
On a recent road trip, I visited InTown Organics in Monteagle, Tennessee. (It is “in town” for Monteagle, but nonetheless a rural setting on the South Cumberland Plateau.)
There, the Wilson family–Jess, Nate, Eli, and Stella–have created a sustainable working farm, with abundant vegetables, herbs, and salad greens. Livestock too! We saw chickens, ducks, and turkeys; some goats (and a companion dog who thinks he’s a goat) and oh-so-prolific rabbits. What they don’t need for the family they sell at the Cumberland Farmers Market, or to area restaurants.
Following are few images I want to share with you from my visit, glimpses of life on the Wilson’s farm that may bring a heart-opening moment to your day too.
Meet Stella. Yes, she’s a little shy, but she does have this young bunny to look after.
She’s Jess and Nate’s three-year-old daughter, and Eli’s sister. While Eli is in school, and Nate teaches at the University, Jess and Stella keep things moving on the farm.
Like any child, Stella loves to play. But she also helps her mom in the garden. Impressive, particularly for one so young, Stella knows chard from kale from beets from carrots…and how to hold a carrot-loving bunny, with care.
This is Stella and Eli’s special garden. Stella was quick to point out which plants were hers, and which belonged to her brother.
You couldn’t miss this boisterous fellow. Tom Turkey paraded about the barnyard, tail-fanning and holler-gobbling at any creature in his purview. Jess laughed, “He always has a lot to say. All day long!”
Perhaps it was because his mate, this demure young hen, was nearby nesting, in long and patient wait until her eggs hatch.
Can’t forget the chickens! While it’s impossible to know what this hen was considering, but she had an assured (cocksure!) look in her eye. (No doubt, unaware of the workshop on chicken slaughter that Jess would soon be conducting.)
Those who raise chickens tell me that they are far more interesting to watch than television. Indeed, there is something endlessly fascinating about the movements of these birds.
This baby rabbit came as a double surprise. Part of an unexpected litter, (apparently the doe bred almost immediately after giving birth. It’s true what they say about rabbits!) he is the only black one. Stella especially loves him.
With thanks to Jess for a giving us a warm farm welcome and to our Sewanee guide Sherri for leading the way.
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