Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Coyotes gotta eat too"

In my old life (also known as the pre-farm days), I conceptually understood and appreciated that in the balance of life, we all exist within this evolutionary dance of life and death, cycling nutrients from one living organism to another.

As anyone who would take interest in this blog would agree, we have become ever more disconnected from that reality as our food producers become more industrialized and we more interested in strutting down Wall St than cultivating the land. Alas, the situation is not so bleak. Some of us vote with our dollars to participate in a better way of nourishing our communities and ourselves. When I came to the farm, I was one such individual. Caring where my food was coming from, being very intentional about sources, blah blah blah. I had a selective diet that my friend Jacob liked to call "Pretendatarianism". I ate mostly vegetarian with a small amount of chicken and seafood but no red meat. Seafood must fall into the "green" category of my ocean friendly pocket guide and chicken must say "free range organic". I bought my produce at the farmers market whenever possible and made my meals from scratch. I thought I was doing what I could to understand my food, respect the needs of the planet and support local food producers.

And I was, I was doing more than most people do. I was still part of the system though, surrounded by fog and relying on others to tell me what food is good and why. When I bought "Free Range Organic" chicken from the grocery store I imaged happy chickens pecking at the grass, not a big industrial shed with thousands of birds, no windows and a small outdoor playpen like the one I visited earlier this season. I didn't know that there is a government allocation of chickens called "quota" that does not acknowledge a farm of less than 1000 birds (therefore not supporting the scale of farm that could handle having real free range birds). I just listened to the advertisers and let the warm fuzzy feelings engulf me, and realistically, I wanted the chicken so I put my skepticism aside. Was I really that different from the people who are seduced by other claims that advertisers make like "health smart" or "lite" on foods that most of us know are far from it? The bottom line is that I wasn't nearly as connected to the systems that nourish us as I wanted to think I was.

Now here I am, working to produce high quality food, visiting different farms and being part of the discussions. And I am more witness to the "balance of life" now than I ever have been. This is where the good stuff starts, the real reason why I'm here.

A couple nights ago Rosenburg, one of the more affectionate kids (as in goats), was eaten by coyotes. That night I was awake for a portion of the night and heard the coyotes howling like I never have before. The next morning I ran into Rob and he told me that Rosenburg had been eaten. There was a strange energy on the farm that morning, a bit of sadness mixed with acceptance and something I didn't expect; a vital sense of being alive, a crude reminder of life itself. John embodied this more than anyone when he said in an upbeat tone "Well, coyotes gotta eat too". There was an optimism there, he was ok with the fact that we don't always get things our way. Of course this same thing can be infuriating when a crop of carrots is ruined by rust fly but the point stands, we don't get all the food all the time. We are apart of a natural system where the notion of personal property doesn't exist. We are just here, growing food and getting "ripped off" constantly by those who think that we (and all of the food we grow) are all part of this living breathing system.

So goodbye Rosenburg, thank you for reminding us that an honest way of being in the world means you don't always get things your way.


  1. What a great post. I wasn't expecting the end ... and Alec and I are very saddened by the loss of Rosenburg. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the romp last weekend with the little guy ... but they too have to understand that all living entities need to eat. When I am ready to answer some bigger questions, I will tell them just this.

    Thanks, Cat, for this thoughtful and complete post. I have made other choices for my life that cannot include being on a farm, but I work very hard at being as meaningfully connected as I possibly can. Your stories (2 so far, I think) are a part of me getting that little bit closer.

  2. Hi Cat,

    Lovely post. Thank you for sharing your reflections.