It was a perfectly wonderful May afternoon. The sun was on the decline bringing out some of the cooler hues of green from the pasture and surrounding oak trees. Ephraim Payne had called us several days earlier because he was working on a CSA story for the Natural Choice Directory and wanted to visit our farm. Not only was he interested in gathering intel for his story, but his wife Leeann and their family were considering joining our CSA for 2012. We were honored to be considered a source of credible CSA information (we have the best CSA customers!). But the biggest honor came from something unexpected of Ephraim’s visit.
You see, the Payne’s are thoughtful consumers, working to keep their carbon footprint as small as possible. They capture rain water to keep their vegetables and laying hens in whetted whistles. They compost, they recycle, they buy locally. But the coolest part of all their efforts is how Ephraim and Leeann share their experience with their daughter, Lily, and encourage her to have her own opinions and make up her own mind about her consumption. This is really where this story begins.
When Ephraim and Lily arrived at the farm, Lily seemed like your average Eugene pre-teen. Nothing ‘brand name’ about her clothes (no AE or A&F to be seen), a tease of azure tint lingering on tucked away bangs, headphones dangling from ears, easy steps in an unfamiliar place. The three of us exchanged hello’s, and I asked Lily what she was listening to. To my pleasant surprise it wasn’t the latest Coldplay album (nothing against Coldplay) or Gotye hit, but an audio book. She didn’t know it yet, but we were already friends.
We took a casual stroll around our farm, looking at our chickens at the different stages of their development. Our birds that were one week old just getting their first wing feathers but still mostly yellow puff balls, the three-week old birds in that weird adolescent stage (half bald, half covered in feathers) and then our 5 and 7 week birds on pasture, in their pens enjoying the warmer afternoon. Lily helped move the pens, feed and water the birds, and even had a heart-to-heart with one of them. I imagined the unspoken conversation to have gone something like this:
Lily: Hey chicken friend. You look good. How is this Derek guy treating you?
Chicken: Hey girl friend. I like your hair. You know, we have it really good here. All the grass and bugs we can handle. We are safe and warm in our pens (we like to flock, but an electric blanket would have been nice last week:). Big D plays some Michael Jackson for us every once in a while. It’s all good.
Lily: Cool. If you were me, would you eat you?
Chicken: Darn straight. Nothing fake about us. We are the best you’re gonna get. Make it happen.
Ephraim and I spoke some more about CSAs, he shot a few photos, and it was time for them to get back into town. But before they left Lily and I exchanged a few precious words which left quite an impression on me. This eleven year old shook my hand, stepped back, looked down at the ground to collect her thoughts and choose her words wisely and spoke these words, “You know, I like what you are doing here and… I have to give you the Lily Stamp of Approval.”
My heart smiled and so did my face. I was honored, proud of our birds, our farm, us, Lily, her parents, the Willamette Valley, that May-day.
They loaded up in their Subaru and drove away down our dirt road. In the words of Lily’s new chicken friend, it really was ‘all good’.