Return to the land, people, or this could happen to YOU.
People think that nature is pleasant and fun, like a cuddly puppy that shits cotton candy, or like cinnamon buns baked by an elf. Unfortunately, everyone who thinks that is wrong. The fact is that Mother Earth is cruel, like a robot programmed to punch faces, or like the kid who bought the last copy of Mass Effect 2 at Target just as you were trying to get the dude's attention so he could unlock the case and get it for you.
Return to the land, people, or this could happen to YOU.
Most people think that nature is kind and snuggly because they're dumb and weak, separated from the land by agricultural technology that somehow turns wholesome ingredients into whatever it is that Arby's sells. But one man has rejected the lumbering zombie of industrial farming, and has returned to the land. This man's name is Kurt Timmermeister.
I wrote about Timmermeister a couple weeks ago. His dairy farm on Vashon Island, Kurtwood Farms, produces high-quality cheeses available for sale all over Seattle at places like Picnic and DeLaurenti. But before he was ready to make cheese, Kurt first had to build his farm. And before he was able to do that, he had to reclaim the land, clearing it himself like pioneers of the olden days, except with fewer kids. Eventually, Timmermeister was able to take a frightful plot of real estate, so undesirable that even Oscar the Grouch would refuse to inhabit it, and turn it into a dreamy agrarian fantasy land where fairies drink dew out of acorn caps and rainbows smile from the sky's face.
Timmermeister wrote about his experiences building this utopia in his new book, Growing a Farmer, which officially went on sale on Monday. The book itself isn't really a "how-to" manual for the small farmer; if anything, it shows how not to go about a career in agriculture. Timmermeister had never farmed before buying property on Vashon Island; he didn't even own a car. Living on monthly payments he received from the sale of his restaurant, Café Septieme, he gradually renovated the shitty buildings, revitalized an apple orchard, planted crops, and began to raise livestock. Early attempts at selling produce through a CSA failed when the year's yield was unexpectedly low, and his only employee quit when Timmermeister was unable to pay him. Later, he completely fucked up an apiary by leaving the top off in the rain, so all the bees died of cold. All that royal jelly went to waste! Then deer ate the branches off his newly planted apple trees. And Dinah, Timmermeister's first dairy cow, broke his ribs when she tried to HUMP HIM.
Naturally, a book-launch party was held last night, hosted by Kim Ricketts Book Events at the South Lake Union studio of photographer Chase Jarvis (the Seattle Food Geek also attended, and chronicled his thoughts earlier today). Timmermeister was being interviewed by local chef and author Greg Atkinson, who kicked off his questioning by asking Kurt about the "farm-to-table" movement, which is the idea that people want to eat food that's been locally produced. "I like to take credit for having it VERY CLOSE TOGETHER," said Timmermeister. Anyone who's ever eaten at the secret dinners hosted at Kurtwood Farms will get the joke, since the livestock Timmermeister slaughters for his dinners can in fact be seen through the dining-room window. Connection to the animals we eat is central to Timmermeister's outlook. "Pork is not abstract; there's an animal that has to be slaughtered."
After the Q&A session, people lined up to eat. At the helm was the chef-in-residence at Kurtwood Farms, > Tyler Palagi. Palagi was serving tacos made from a pig slaughtered last week. Wrapped in corn tortillas and served with three kinds of hot sauce, Timmermeister's own cottage cheese, diced onion, and sliced radishes, these pork tacos were way tastier than your mom's.
I asked Palagi if he was going to miss working at Kurtwood Farms, now that Timmermeister has discontinued the private dinners he once served there. "Totally," said Palagi. "It's a lot of fucking work, and digging beets out of a muddy shithole sucks, but they're still better beets than at any restaurant in Seattle." That having been said, the dude maintains a healthy skepticism of the farm-to-table movement. "We like to think we're deep thinkers, but really we're just full of shit."
Veteran restaurateur Wylie Bush, owner of Capitol Hill coffee landmark Joe Bar and co- owner of the Corson Building, took a more reverent tone about Timmermeister's philosophy. "It did start something in Seattle: communal dining, farm-to-table. And it influenced people."
Judging from the capacity crowd, the farm-to-table movement influenced lots of people, but probably not enough. Realistically, in order to feed everyone in the U.S. with locally grown organic food, we as a society would have to turn all the shitty condos we've built back into the farmland it was. Unfortunately, most people don't have the balls to undertake this kind of massive social change. That's because they're pussies who forgot how hard-core their ancestors were. When you boil it down, after all, the farm-to-table movement is really all about remembering that nature is cruel: Bees die, deer eat your apples, and pigs must be slaughtered. This is an unpleasant truth, but it's one society shouldn't forget.
Luckily, a few men like Timmermeister aren't forgetful pussies. He remembers that nature is cruel, and if we don't kill and eat animals, they'll kill and eat us. But as long as a few heroic motherfuckers remain willing to work the land, human society won't devolve into a servile race enslaved by cows. Thank you, Kurt Timmermeister, for ensuring human freedom in the face of a bovine pogrom against us!
Rating: 8 condos out of 10
P.S.: Be sure to read the Seattle Food Geek's coverage of this same event. Who wrote a more accurate account of this event? You decide! It will be just like Rashomon!