One of the things I love about where I live in rural Maine is that people aren’t just subsistence farmers, they truly care about the quality of the food they eat. A lot of local farmers are using organic farming methods, seeds that are not genetically modified, and heirloom varieties of vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are picked when they are ripe. But the selection can be sparse and the variety limited because of weather.
At my current favorite farm I noticed that the kale is always sweet. I don’t know about you, but when I buy kale at the supermarket, it often has a slightly bitter edge. I finally realized it’s because the supermarket kale is probably 3 or 4 days old since the time it was picked. The kale I buy from my local farm was picked that morning. It truly makes a difference when produce is so fresh, not only in taste, but in maximum nutritional benefit.
And the eggs! When you crack open an egg from chickens that have plenty of space to roam around and, well, act like chickens, instead of imprisoned in tight confinement and never breathing outside air, you’ll see that their eggs look totally different from what you buy in the supermarket. The egg yolks from a naturally-raised laying hen aren’t pale yellow – – they are a deep marigold yell0w-orange color whose flavor is so rich you will wonder how you could ever possibly think of buying a supermarket egg again.
What I love about Flyaway Farm is . . . everything. It’s a family farm in the truest sense of the word: a back-to-the-land sort of family, slightly hippie, living very simply off the grid in a remote area, homeschooling their hard-working kids, growing what they need to survive, and selling the surplus for some extra cash. Oh my, do they work hard! There is little respite. Since they are an organic farm, they are constantly coming up with creative, ingenious ways to thwart the notorious Maine bugs and crop destroyers without the use of toxic pesticides, and improve their soil without the use of chemicals. Like any farmers, they are at the mercy of nature: too much rain or not enough; killer frosts. And still they keep at it, knowing that it’s mostly a losing game but worth the cost because life is good.
There are a lot of good people in rural Maine who barely get by. Many grow what they need as subsistence farmers and hunt to supplement their food supply. No one wants to be poor, but I can say with conviction that few people in Maine make it their goal in life to be rich. Some would arguably concur that Mainers lack drive or ambition. But most people live in Maine because they want to get away from the rat race, and live slower. It’s hard to do that while wending your way up a corporate ladder. Rural Mainers want to make enough to have the basics and a little left over for an emergency or an occasional splurge, but rural Mainers are the least materialistic people I’ve ever known. Their lives are guided by this question: do I really need it, or do I just want it? Can I make something similar with my own two hands, or from spare parts sitting in the shed/barn? Can I barter for it with something I already have?
Each week when I buy vegetables, I write down what it is that I’ve taken (this week it was 4 bags of kale, a bag of snap peas, and some fresh eggs gathered that morning from their free-range chickens), and record how much money I’ve paid.
I put the money in a little lock box, although there is another box with about $20 in bills and coins in case I need to make change. It’s all about the honor system and it’s not just a convenience, it’s a creed here in rural Maine. It’s a great and holy thing when you can trust not just your most intimate acquaintances, but the majority of the population, even if they might be strangers.
When you live in an environment that is consistent in honesty and decency it changes a person. Life just seems more livable and more meaningful. And soon, you can’t imagine living any other way.
The thought of returning to the city, where people are cynical and skeptical and mistrusting, because they’ve been burned more than once and expect to be burned again, is astonishing. Why put up with such ill-begotten behavior if you don’t have to? And you learn that we all make choices, and then wonder why anyone would choose to live in chaos, or get so used to the corruption of certain values that they forget that life can be different in such a positive way.
The state motto is, “Maine: The Way Life Should Be.” There is a lot wrong with the state of Maine, but mostly there is a lot that’s right. It’s the important things that count: that basic decency and honor and craftsmanship and pride of place that is the very definition of rural Maine, that is sadly lacking in so many other places.
The most popular supplier of organic vegetable, herb and flower seeds, bulbs, potatoes, and trees in Maine is Fedco Seeds. That’s where I order my garlic bulbs and they’ve been great. They sell to commercial organic farmers, serious hobbyists, as well as weekend gardeners. You can order a print catalog or just look online. Their catalog has a wealth of information and makes for great reading. They only sell seasonally. I highly recommend them, and they ship all over the US.