The Ultimate Commitment to Place


October 15, 2011, Washington, DC: It's totally trendy, I know. But I'm among many city dwellers who are captivated by life on the farm, ranch, orchard and vineyard. We go to farmer's markets. We select wines because they come from vineyards close to home. Over dinners out, we daydream about getting callouses working with our hands. We chat with friends about their weekly milk and cheese delivery that comes in from Maryland. We love that article we just read about Brooklyn Grange, the world's largest rooftop farm. We book tables for the upcoming Dine Out For Farms week. Think what you will, but I'm intrigued.

I consider this today at Butler's Orchard in Germantown, MD, a trek that's becoming something of an autumn ritual since we've lived in Washington. Among pumpkins, mums and apple cider, I think about why I'm so interested in places like this one and the lifestyles of the people who live here. I have a hunch it goes beyond eating local and supporting our economy close to home. It has something to do with being a nomad.

Put it this way: For someone who's never put down roots, the concept of operating a family farm is entirely foreign. It's a lifestyle wholly dependent on staying put for the long haul, on sticking with one piece of land for decades. From my gypsy perspective, it's the ultimate commitment -- the ultimate commitment to place.

Something about the permanence of it all scares me. Something inside me thinks never in a million years could I commit to such a decision. But I'll be honest: A tinge of envy that creeps in too. When I talk to people living off these vineyards and farms, ranches and orchards, they are healthy and happy. They are living the good life.

Are nomads like us missing out on this deep-seeded connection to place? Is there more to be gained by making a commitment and putting down roots than by being always on the move?

It may be hip to support our farmers, but maybe it's hipper still to be one.