I have taken many a circuitous journey not the least of which was a mid-May tour dedicated to organic food and agriculture. Varied in scenery and scape, it offered resolutions of grandeur and revelations of growth. On this excursion, I discovered new evidence of organic vitality and vigor while sampling many of its succulent edible delights, all in the company of friends and heart family.
My journey begins and ends with policy with rashers of organic faire sandwiched throughout. Is the meat of my odyssey really the flavors that I seek? Do I work so very hard to invigorate this industry from both ends just for the juicy flavor in between?
A journey that begins headed east is an auspicious one. This one begins with a jaunt to Sacramento through the rolling golden foothills to the halls of CDFA. For almost a decade I have advised on organic matters to the CA Secretary of Ag. COPAC it is called, and here I learn how vital and truly voracious organic is in California.
The State Organic Program reports on the amazing facts that organic proffers up in California. Not only does California lead the way with $2.2B in sales at the farm level, but total annual gross organic sales revenue for processed and packaged goods alone reached a monumental $9.8 billion last year! The number of registered organic entities in the state totals nearly 4000!
California is an organic “hot-spot” where organic food and farming create prosperity and economic benefit to rural and urban dwellers alike. This phenomenon of California organic has seeded and shaped my very being.
I depart the next day from San Francisco after enduring a bluster-howling night. The torpedo-like sheers have subsided, and there will be no turbulence in my future. Many hours later through the sorcery of aviation, I arrive in the driftless land, a place that even (somehow) the glaciers avoided: southeastern Wisconsin, with its verdant rolling hills and voluptuous valleys. I drive into the belly of the bovine beast. Cheese curds, cheddar, Muenster and Jack – all in attendance.
Once off the beaten path I quickly enter another time and dimension. Amish and Anabaptists making a choice – buggyed and horse-powered they choose to live and farm in the traditions of simplicity, treading lightly on the land, now continuing this practice in organic production.
They do this because of a few visionary people at Organic Valley who brought an organic revolution of prosperity and vitality to these valleys. I drive onward even deeper it seems into the past, a mythical place where the cell tower does not intrude. The fences disappear, the electric lines fall away, the grasses and livestock odors waft sweet. The ample luxurious expansiveness of this place renders me speechless and (of course) hungry!
To the land of the Kickapoo, I am headed to honor a grand friend who helped spin this organic web, lacing a chain of organic producers and buyers together until it was strong as a movement. She is celebrating 7 decades around the sun, and her family and friends gather here to embrace her.
This is where the meaty delicious middle of this odyssey is savored. The lack of phone service and internet intrusions demand that I stow my devices and turn my attention to all things that sate. All at once, I find, the aroma of dozens of almond strewn cakes as they cool on the sills, the primordial essence of the fire and roasting lamb, the smoked pork shoulders simmering and shuddering in their skins all day. I hear the snap of freshly picked asparagus and watch juices of pure freshness spurt before being thrust in a boiling pot.
It’s a riot of organic food and a flurry of friendship, feasting and family.
From the stone oven sausage pizzas emerge, then eggs coddled in butter, freshly baked focaccia, maple syrup, and blueberry compote, bacon in every size and thickness, black coffee, morel mushrooms, cathedral-red wine, Dakora-crafted lemon beer, roasted almonds, and nettle empanadas – oh my – this is a weekend of delicious hedonism in all things organic!
It ends with a lazy flotilla of canoes escapading down the winding cavernous Kickapoo River (I only get rolled twice!). From this all-day meandering, I receive a taste of the real communion of organic life and love, friendship and family. The wafer is on my tongue my cup is full. I totter away in my appreciation of a sylvan life well lived. I am full of more than just food; I am nourished to the core of my being by spirit.
From Kickapoo to K Street downtown bustling Washington DC – I arrive well fed, finely fested and rested and ready for a week of organic policy with OTA!
That my dear reader is where I leave you for now, hanging somewhere between Kickapoo and K – two worlds apart, both pathways on the same journey in pursuit of all things organic. Stay tuned…