Sometimes there will be a farm that you fall for like a poem, or a fabric that speaks to you so loudly you have to wear it at once. I didn’t know this before; well, let’s say I half-knew it. Until it happened for real. The first time I stumbled on the Hawthorne Valley Biodynamic Farm stand, I was cautious and sampled their plain sauerkraut but shirked the array of inventive dairy products—raw cheeses and soft, spreadable cheeses, quark, bianca, and buttermilk—maybe got a spelt roll but turned shyly from the crusty fruited sourdoughs and didn’t even see the vegetables. I think I was overwhelmed, or maybe it was just too good. But each Saturday (and some Wednesdays), something miraculous would happen and I would see a little more of the plenty I had somehow missed the time before. And I would try more. And each thing I tried, I fell in love with, and wanted to write volumes about. In short, a spell was cast.
That’s how it happened that, on John Lennon’s 70th birthday, Nin and I found ourselves driving up highway 87 and asking for directions a half-dozen times until we rolled up to the Hawthorne Valley annual Farm Festival in Ghent, NY.
The Catskills were incredible with a candy-apple-red sheen on the deep green trees, and reminded me of Bob Ross programs when I was a kid. Hundreds of people congregated around the farm store (where you can buy raw milk in quantity) and various food stands that had gone up for the day, offering corn fritters for a dollar among other things. An old man with a long white beard, newsboy hat and corncob pipe played the banjo under a canopy with his bandmates, and children of all ages lined up to get their faces painted with butterflies and lions. It was good wholesome fun and for city kids that never got to experience anything like it (I am referring to myself here, not Nina), it was bliss.
But Hawthorne is not special just for me, because of personal nostalgia. There are plenty of reasons why it is objectively amazing. Hawthorne Valley is a non-profit that houses 3 things: a biodynamic farm, a Waldorf School, and an incredible farm store that rivals any coop and tops it because they are allowed to sell raw milk.
For those who don’t know about the connection between Waldorf schools and biodynamic farming, Rudolf Steiner was the architect of both at the start of the twentieth century. Steiner, who believed that everything in the world has a material aspect and a spiritual aspect, taught that farming in accordance with the phases of the moon, along with the preparation of certain (very witchy) fertilizers and the self-containment of the farm would all contribute not only to the farm’s harmony with nature but also would engage “non-physical beings” to aid in the growth of food. In this same spirit, he taught an elaborate developmental theory and, based on that theory, created a school that emphasized simultaneous education of the “mind, heart and hands.”
But this is certainly one of those cases in which the whole is greater, beyond measure, than the sum of its parts. Theory aside (and there is much complex and transformative theory to plow through), these joint institutions and the land on which they reside hold such a strong dose of pure, unadulterated magic that it was impossible for me to stand on that soil without thinking, yes, we have tarnished this incredible world. And yet, magic is alive.