“I love the sound blackberries make against the bottom of the bucket when I first start dropping them in. As the berries start to pile up they make a muffled sound, which becomes harder and harder to hear as the bucket gets heavier and full. It’s a hot summer day and the silence is now complete, except for the buzzing of bees and the rustling of berry branches. I’ll freeze those berries and, come January, I’ll make a cobbler or a pie with them, and when I eat a piece of it I’ll remember the morning I picked them. I’ll remember the sounds and the silence, the smell of the fields and the earth, the slant of the sunlight through the trees.”
Sandra Snyder of When Pigs Fly Farm has just described one of the hidden perks of growing and harvesting your own food. It’s not just the nutritional benefits of eating fresh food grown without pesticides. It’s the connection to the food itself, and all that comes with it. When you plant a head of lettuce from seed, tend it, watch it grow and harvest it, you become part of a cycle we’ve been cut off from for more than a century.
We are creatures of connection. And we are starved for it. We, with our stadium-sized supermarkets, settle for produce grown in depleted soil and meat derived from animals raised in abject misery. We are gorged yet our souls are starving, because our food has been starved. In eating food made lifeless, we suffer a disconnect from our bodies and each other so chronic and insidious that we don’t even know it anymore.
WHEN PIGS FLY FARM
Andy and Sandra Snyder own and run When Pigs Fly Farm in Sandisfield, high in the Berkshire Hills. Farming can be daunting here with its short growing season and rocky soil. Yet their bounty is so rich they can supply themselves with food—not just during the growing season, but throughout the winter. And they also have plenty left over to sell shares in their farm so others can benefit. They are raising two beautiful, healthy daughters, Rosemary and Anna, who are now integral to the farm’s success.
The Farm launched a community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription program last year. Their concept was to offer several plans to accommodate different financial needs. For example, the Regular Share plan consists of 20 weekly shares and costs $550 per family plus two hours of work at some point during those 20 weeks. For those with less money to spend there is a Working Share that costs $325 plus eight (four-hour) sessions of farm work.
In making a working contribution to the farm, the CSA member learns a great deal about the reality of farm life. The simple chores of weeding or clipping back tomatoes provide new-found respect for farmers and an enhanced relationship to food they’ve grown and harvested themselves.
In addition to providing fresh and high-quality produce, Andy and Sandra strive to educate their community about the importance and merits of small family farms and having a connection to the food that one consumes. Many times they have witnessed the look of wonder when people first taste something they had a hand in raising. They can sense the difference between this food and supermarket-bought food, not just in the taste but in the satisfaction.
“You can tell,” says Andy, “that you’re eating something alive.” And that life is what truly sustains us.
Years ago, I experienced something similar to Sandra’s berry-picking mornings. One Sunday, my nephew and I spent the afternoon under a scorching late-June sun, picking strawberries. Afterward we went for ice cream and miniature golf. It was, in the whole of his 12 years, the first time I had ever spent any significant amount of time with him. On a cold November day I took out some of those berries I had frozen, thawed them and bit into one. The memory of that day flooded in, along with the sun, the warmth and the laughing, loving connection I had with my sister’s child. All of that from one perfect red berry I had picked months ago.
Small family farms like When Pigs Fly Farm do a service that goes way beyond the providing of fresh, locally grown food. The Snyders, in the generous and enthusiastic sharing of their knowledge, strengthen awareness of the significance of having a personal relationship with the way our food is grown. Through their education and example, we have a chance to find and embrace that what was lost—an authentic connection with ourselves and each other.
WHEN PIGS FLY FARM
Sandra and Andy Snyder
222 Sandisfield Rd., Sandisfield
When Pigs Fly Farm has a farm stand, open seven days a week, sunrise to sunset. Products usually include fresh eggs, produce in season, maple syrup, honey, fresh-baked bread, herbs, flowers, potted plants, a variety of homemade soups (kept frozen), relishes, jellies and meat (seasonal). During the winter holiday season, many local artisans sell their wares through the farm stand as well. Stop by any Sunday for a free tour of the farm. Many times, Sandra will have baked something wonderful—usually a berry pie or cobbler—and generous helpings will be available as long as it lasts.
Tina Sotis has lived in the Berkshires since 1998. A woman of many talents, she is a painter, scuba dive instructor and a graphic designer (The Sandisfield Times owes its look to her design skills.) Tina thinks there is nothing so wonderful as freshly picked strawberries, fully ripe and still warm from the sun.