ATL

Skylight Farm

Hosts of the Harvest

Zigzag Black Squiggly Green scroll to begin arrow

The knowledge of the good health of the garden relieves, and frees, and comforts the eater

__Wendell Berry

Her knife moves rhythmically up and down, over and over, guided sharply over fresh fennel. Her eyes flick to the left as she shifts to spy on the purple and white Hinona turnips roasting in the oven. At the stove, she stirs a massive enamel pot of grits, then returns to dicing, resuming the rhythm as if she never stopped.

Kenan Crawford Hill, cook and creator of Kitchen 1204, is preparing a Wholesome Wave farm-to-table benefit dinner at Skylight Farm, an Atlanta-area organic vegetable farm run by my husband, Justin. I bounce back and forth between the kitchen and the barn, where he and I greet a stream of visitors arriving for the autumnal gathering.

For a handful of guests, this is the first time they’ve set foot on a farm. There’s something that happens to people when they visit. I think of it as “farm face.”

As our guests and new friends walk through the fields smelling the soil, they watch Justin harvest fresh broccoli and in turn, have a go at harvesting some themselves. The muscles in their faces begin to relax. A peacefulness and goodness creeps into their demeanor, shedding tensions they carried only moments before.

Farmer and author Wendell Berry explains that, “The knowledge of the good health of the garden relieves, and frees, and comforts the eater.” Witnessing the farm’s transformative power on guests never grows old.

The crowd finishes their tour with Justin and strolls in a pack toward the red, Scandinavian-style barn. Zinnias and boughs of green, flaunting the last colors of fall, drape over the barn doors and overflow across the long wooden tables. Drinks are poured, and pickled-peach biscuits are passed as the farm guests and helpers settle in to enjoy the fruit of months of hard work by Justin, his apprentice Lindy and the countless volunteers who keep our farm moving and growing from spring until winter.

Kenan and I emerge from the kitchen, overflowing dishes in hand. Friends and volunteers clamour to help as course after course is plated. Greens and root veggies, locally raised chicken, sugared pecans, stone-ground grits, and a “bumpkin pie,” made with a hybrid pumpkin-butternut squash, are shared amongst the guests. A ragtag community of young and old, lawyers and farmers, city-dwellers and suburbanites, teachers, writers, and engineers have gathered to acknowledge, as Wendell Berry proclaimed, “Eating is an agricultural act.” There exists an irrefutable connection between the land that our food comes from, the hands that tend it, and our plates. This night is only a glimpse of this complex relationship.

Each morning, Justin strides the length and width of the farm. He painstakingly tills, tends, and trims. He plans and worries. The weather forecast is always a point of discussion in our home. And when the first, tiny strawberries and tomatoes appear on his plants, he arrives home with a basket full, presenting them to me as if they were solid gold.

black

This is what our friends and community acknowledge when they share our table at the farm for this feast, or when they enjoy the prosperity of our farm at home, with family and friends.

As Kenan takes a seat to enjoy the meal that she’s spent a full day preparing, I watch our new friends converse and laugh. The conscious decision that Kenan, the volunteers, our farmers’ market friends, our CSA members and family, have made to support Skylight Farm is a decision that allows us to grow food that nourishes and delights the body. These are the people who support the farm; these are the people whom the farm supports. Critics will argue that organic farming is a “fad,” or “elitist.” Sitting around a table, on land that has been farmed organically since before “organic” was certifiable, eating with our hodgepodge community, these critiques seem humorous.

We believe in stewardship and caring for the things we’ve been given. We believe in the ability of food to bring close even the most unlikely of friends. We believe in caring for the earth, and in caring for our own physical well-being. Eating is not meant to be an isolating necessity. Food is meant to be life-giving and community-building.

We love sharing what it means to eat consciously, growing in our awareness of the environmental and the cultural effects of the piles on our plate. Even a small step, like buying your lettuce from a local farmer, is an investment in the direction of your home’s agricultural future.

As long as there are friends who invest in good food, who eat our vegetables, Justin will be able to get up each morning to care for the spinach, the carrots, or the collards that our friends will enjoy for dinner. Our farm continues to grow and feed a community, in part because of the chopped fennel we enjoyed at dinner. So, eat well. Saveur your food with the understanding that even the smallest things on your plate make a difference.

Hosts: Skylight Farms
Cooking and food styling: Kenan Hill
Photography: Justen Clay
Floral Styling: Meredith Mejerle Rush

black