My respect and admiration for farmers is always growing. I realized last weekend after I visited a small family farm in Camp Verde Arizona, how little I actually know about growing food. It was a beautiful and sunny day for a good visit. The willow trees and lovely sound of the irrigation canal gave life to the farm’s name. Willowbrook Farm is owned and operated by Denise Gould and her two daughters. The farm is dedicated to growing a variety of nutritious seasonal fruits and vegetables. At the moment the farmers are planting onions, garlic, chard and kale and fresh apricots, plums, peaches tomatoes, free range eggs, squash and honey make their seasonal appearance. This farm strives to be in balance with nature, using all organic methods focusing on soil quality and water conservation. They spend time hand planting every crop and are happy to be part of two farmers markets and a CSA in the Verde Valley. The farm is home to a variety of chickens, three beehives and towering pecan trees.
Talking with Denise filled me with a desire to know and understand more about actual farming techniques. From water conservation to soil management techniques, there is so much to learn. Willowbrook Farms takes a very scientific approach to finding the right balance of nutrients in their soil and regular testing takes the guess work out of providing a healthy home base for their crops. I learned about the importance of microbial diversity in the soil and how to responsibly manage an irrigation canal, all while listening to the happy clucking of chickens outside the farmhouse doors. It was so refreshing and encouraging to see ideas about holistic and sustainable farming in action!
The experience was also very humbling and highlighted how much we take farmers for granted. There is so much work to be done on even a small piece of land. We are often so far removed from our source of food we never stop to think that behind every product there is a farmer, plant or animal that worked hard to provide for us. This is why visiting farms is more than just a nice change of scenery; it is a reminder of how lucky we are. It puts things into perspective and makes me want to support local farmers that much more. Next time you visit the farmers market chat about a farm tour and I think you will be surprised at how positively the inquire will be received. Farmers want you to ask these questions about how the food is produced and remind you that food does not magically appear on grocery store shelves. I recommend a good visit for every eater. It is a reality check and an opportunity to be more thankful for every mouthful.