Sunday, November 28, 2010

A "From the Farm" Thanksgiving — Craig Jensen

One night in August, a fox snuck into our barn and carried away many of our turkey chicks. It was an early and excessive thanksgiving for the fox family, but a major setback here at The Meeting School. New birds were ordered and the staff and students (with the help of dogs, cows, and guinea hens) stayed on alert. The new birds have done well, but we’re still expecting a smaller-than-average Thanksgiving turkey on the table.

At The Meeting School, we celebrate the fall harvest with a “from the farm” Thanksgiving. We serve our turkey as well as our roasted root vegetables and our mashed potatoes. We stuff squash and press cider, we bake pies from our apples and pears, and we invite our families and friends to sit down at the long wooden farm tables that make up our dining hall. Sharing food, and sharing the work of growing and preparing it, is an essential part of The Meeting School’s unique learning experience and there is no better display of this than Thanksgiving. Farm raised turkeys, slaughtered here and cooked here by a staff and student team, are the traditional focus of the table. I know that our current farm coordinator is thankful that the birds have sized up enough to show well, but my own food-related thanks this November are still set on our tomatoes.

Our greenhouse is a small, slant window design, built onto the south side of the boarding house that is also home to our community kitchen. When I returned to The Meeting School in August I began reclaiming this favorite space. I started new greens and began moving others inside. I’ve transplanted in leeks and herbs and flowers that will extend our season and enrich our community meals. But the highlight has been the sprawling tomato plant that continues to bud, and flower, and fruit even now in the second week of November. The greenhouse is unheated but has a very warm bank from the building behind it. When I began tying up the plant in August it was just a leggy and ambitious start that had not been moved outside. It was slow to fruit, but has really been producing some quality tomatoes. It seems very possible that we’ll have fruit ripen on the vine that we can add to a Thanksgiving salad. Incredible!

In my experience, the way we grow, cook, and share our food can really define a community. Sharing food with friends at The Meeting School helped me realize my call to farming and convinced me to live in community. I am looking forward to growing food and growing community in Belfast soon, but until then you are all invited to visit us here in southern New Hampshire.

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