farm writing and genetic preservation or Our Heirloomy Heritage

4 10 2008

I just got back from a day spent at the Oregon State University Extension office in Central Point comiserating with a room of fellow farmers who are writers. We started off the morning getting to hear from a panel of accomplished farmers and writers (some even started as writers, then came to farming). That was pretty great; my personal local idol, Don Tipping of Seven Seeds Farm in Williams, Oregon shared once again his vast array of hats and homesteading arts by reminding farmers of their niche and their audience should they become writers. Chris and Kirsten Shockey of Melonia Farm, another Applegate Farm, raise kids and perennials while keeping their hands in the homesteading arts as well.

I say ‘pretty great’ because after the panel spoke it was suggested that everyone go around the room and introduce themselves to the group… that’s when the connecting sparks started popping and sizzling! From Priscilla Weaver of Saltmarsh Ranch Soay in the Applegate Valley to finding out we’ve got a neighbor farmer just down the road in Marguerite Damewood of Fair Oaks Farm (“livin la vida local” as her card says).

Priscilla was particularly fantastic because she and her husband moved to the area FROM CHICAGO, albeit ten years or so ago. Over one hundred sheep later they’ve hit on something they both can live with: helping to preserve these really rare sheep by maintaining a pedigree database (her husband was a molecular biologist at UIC) and getting the word out through Priscilla’s blog (she, a trial lawyer). All of this to preserve a piece of our agricultural pre-history – think seedsaving but with animals. (She also offered that when we get tired of smelly goats to give her a call for some sheep…)

How many of you have thought about this: the genetic diversity of the vegetables, fruit, livestock and poultry in this world is shrinking. Our options of meat, eggs, and dairy are on the brink of extinction – not to get alarmist but think about any trip to the grocery store, and then think about the names of the stuff you put into your cart. “Turkey”, “Chicken”, “Tomatoes”, “Lettuce”. Then think about names like this: “Florida Cracker” (a breed of cow), “San Clemente” (a breed of goat), “Paul Robeson” (a tomato), “Ginger’s Pride” (a melon).

Farmers should be writers because there are stories to tell about what we do and the day to day messy, hilarious details of preserving our collective agricultural genetic heritage.