Philadelphia can be unbearable in July. It's hot, it's humid, and being in the field past 9 am is miserable. No one seems to need flowers in July, anyway. (And if I'm being honest, we're a bit sick of them by now, too.)
So I got away. A glorious week of visiting friends and New England farms, island hikes and eating lobster, and picking flowers that weren't mine. Even though I grew up on a big farm, surrounded by other big farms, and spent the summers picking strawberries and milking cows, I'd forgotten how wonderful farmers really are. I left home at 18 for college thinking I'd never have to set foot near a sheep or drive a tractor or bale hay again. Now all I can think about is how much I miss it. Farming in the city isn't the same as having acres and acres to call your own; it's laughable to even consider that comparison. But the methods and the problems aren't all that different. We just scale up or down to fit the land we have the pleasure of stewarding.
I don't think this happens in most professions, but in flower farming, you have instant friends. There is always someone with whom to commiserate; to discuss the weather; to share an order of seeds; to help when you need an extra hand. And always a place to stay when you're traveling nearby, with strong coffee and an animal to snuggle and walks in the field.
I started by visiting Grace at Fivefork Farms, just west of Boston. Grace and her family are nothing short of amazing. The farm is beautiful; the flowers stunning. I took away so much from just 2 hours in her fields (and of course left my camera in the car and don't have a single photo). Then I headed north to Maine to Broadturn Farm outside of Portland. Stacy and John are quite possibly my favorite human beings in the entire world, and I am constantly amazed at all they do. I've only known them for a year, but I'm certain it's a friendship carried over from another life. At Broadturn, there were wedding flowers and kittens and fresh strawberries. And always, always, new schemes that Stacy and I dream up. There are so many ways to collaborate, even when you're separated by distance.
A few days later, we found ourselves in Vermont at Ardelia Farm, where Bailey and Thomas have somehow managed to create the most magical wonderland in the middle of nowhere. Their farm is down a dirt road that's down a dirt road. I didn't have cell phone service for three days. It was everything I remembered about the way a farm should be from my childhood: crooked buildings and legitimately free-range chickens; forgotten tools and hay in the barn loft; and everywhere, things saved that will someday be useful.
I don't know how well I could describe it in words other than that it makes me hopeful. To see my friends living their dreams and being so happy and content in a life removed from the city. To know that it's not all industrialized farms and pesticides. It really doesn't take much beyond desire that makes it possible. (And a lot of work, of course -- I can't downplay the work, but when you really want something, you do whatever it takes.)
We ate and drank, and weeded in the fields; cut flowers and cordoned sweet peas; milked a goat and collected eggs; and drank too much wine and made a flower crown for Pippa the pig. I was so sad to leave and have been waking up daily from dreams in which I've relocated to a cabin in Vermont, or maybe rural Quebec.
I never imagined my life taking me this direction, to so many friends and kindred spirits and like-minded souls. It's difficult to remember this when there are crop failures and hot days and plants that fall over in the rain, but I don't think now that I want a life that doesn't leave me with a sunburn, dirt under my nails, and fields full of flowers to harvest.
Most of these photographs were taken by Kelton Bumgarner. Forever grateful. xx