I recently read an interview with one of my favorite chef celebrities, Anthony Bourdain. In that piece, Bourdain claims that farmers waste less food because they understand the hard work that goes into producing what we eat; the further away from the source, the more apt the consumer is to toss consumables, even with no spoilage. While I wholeheartedly agree, I think the connection to the land and what can be gleaned goes even deeper.
Farming is its own ego-system. Everyone and everything serves a purpose, therefore respect and flexibility are not only encouraged, they are mandated. These “rules” aren’t printed up and distributed at a weekly meeting in the coop; they are unwritten and have evolved out of a desire to live in harmony. Without even realizing it, I spend a lot of time observing and appreciating the intertwined relationship among us.
The cows: They are herd animals so they tend to stick together and know instinctually that they will survive better as a cohesive group than as individual cows. Our mama cows work in unison to raise their calves; even to the point of the mama with the most milk nursing babes that are not her own. Their generosity creates a calm, safe and nurturing environment.
The hens: Fabio, the main rooster, is the CEO of the coop. He makes sure that every chicken gets her fair share of feed and also has a safe place to lay her eggs. He is a benevolent leader, even though he has spurs on his feet that could gut an enemy with one swipe. He seems to know that using those weapons is a last resort and to this day, I have never seen him threaten with them. He clucks and prances until a peaceful agreement is reached.
The turkeys: Probably the most in awe I have been is watching the turkeys create harmony amongst themselves. Turkeys can be testy and also a bit “clique-ish”. If given the opportunity, they will bully. I was out visiting them in the pasture when a fight between them broke out. It was an unfair battle of 4-on-1, with the four being much bigger than the one. The brawl was tolerated for a mere moments before one of the turkeys nearby witnessing the altercation rushed over and put a protective wing in front of the bullied turkey. That protective turkey stood as large as it possibly could to demonstrate that it was not afraid and that bully behavior will not be tolerated within the group. There was complete silence as the flock observed the scene, seeming to understand the significance of it all. The group dispersed without incident.
I don’t know, but with all that is going on in the world today, I wonder if Anthony Bourdain merely scratched the surface.