I'd gone to Apple Ridge Farm in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania to take photographs of the garlic harvest. And I spent a good portion of the morning following the farmer and his crew around taking shots of the garlic, the chickens and the other crops that were growing in the field as well as the barn, the tractor and the people. There was a lot of pride in the integrity of their organic farming, the wholesome crops it produced and the wonderful flavors and fragrances that come from truly fresh food. I then made my way over to the on-site bakery where a batch of artisan bread was being prepared for the brick oven. The aroma was heavenly! I spent some time learning about what was being made, where it would be delivered and taking photographs of bread, cookies and all sorts of baking equipment. I realized it was just about lunchtime when I saw a large platter of sandwiches being prepared for the crew and was about to excuse myself when it was made clear that I was invited to join them. Who could say no when every inhale filled my head with the delicious aroma of fresh bread, fresh basil, fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella- you get the picture!
There were about a dozen of us who ended up sitting in an odd collection of plastic lawn chairs and other make-shift seats around a table that held a spread fit for a king. Along with fresh lemonade there were the aforementioned sandwiches as well as linguine with tomato sauce, fresh beets and cookies for dessert. If your mouth isn't watering by now, I give up! The conversation ranged from what needed to be done that afternoon before the predicted rain shower moved in to a community movie night and upcoming orders for the farmer's market. As I listened to the conversation and watched the way they interacted with one another I was struck by this little microcosm of humanity. Some had come from far away, some local. While all of them were younger than myself, age did not seem to matter so much as working together. And although many employees tolerate one another on the job and go home without so much a thought of other employees, this group actually enjoyed each other's presence and planned to socialize the following week with a pot-luck dinner.
Suddenly the phrase "the good earth" popped into my mind. Good earth not in the sense of productive soil or bountiful harvests but good earth in the sense of the qualities of a good community made up of good people. On the outside the plastic chairs, paper cups and disposable utensils might have looked very 21st century, but on the inside, the people here reminded me of what must have been the predominant characteristic of a community when this country of ours was primarily an agricultural society. They were good people who looked out for the good of others, good people who offered hospitality to a budding photographer, good people who enjoyed sitting under an oak tree partaking in a good lunch. And these good folks had put out a good spread too!
While much is made of bad people and the bad things they do in the media with the conclusion that ALL people are like this and that's the way our culture is now, I truly believe my experience at Apple Ridge Farm is more indicative of what people are really like. In community we bear the same qualities as a loaf of artisan bread which the Good Earth produces- appealing to the eyes, fragrant and inviting to the senses and nurturing to the soul. Although I was not one of the crew I felt right at home sitting there with them and enjoying the meal and conversation. "This is really good!" I said and it was taken as a compliment on the food. But in my mind I knew I was saying so much more. So while I could wax eloquently on the virtues of community and organic farming, I'll keep it short and sweet. Simply put, as Good Earth we are good for one another.