Growing the Ground: My Weekend on an Organic Farm Retreat, Part 2
Jessica Avoids the New Age
I told you last week of my healthy sense of adventure, a tenderness for excellent produce, and affinity for free stuff, all of which I parlayed into a recent weekend retreat at the Angelic Organics farm in Caledonia, Ill My weekend continues on a more mindful path as I explain below.
I will not detail my evening at the Clock Tower Resort. All I will say is; do not stay there. You have been warned. You are welcome.
I arrive at the farm the next morning shortly after 9 am. I snack on a very sour slice of apple harvested yesterday and mentally ready myself for the hour of yoga that is next on the schedule. I have long tried to convince myself that I like yoga, purchasing a mat and a towel and suffering through numerous hot yoga classes.
Like every other session, the one at Angelic Organics is no different. I take the opportunity to take lots of pictures just so I can stop doing yoga. I’ve tried. It’s boring. I’m sorry. Don’t throw your chakras at me. As I lie in corpse pose listening to the sounds of the farm, I am struck by two thoughts. One, I could be playing with animals right now. Two, is it time to eat yet?
Finally, we chant our last ohm and say namaste to our yoga leader and I fairly race to the Learning Center to retrieve my mason jar of overnight oats (made yesterday) from the fridge. Chewy with spoonfuls of chia seeds and crushed walnuts, the oats are redolent with the raw almond milk Amanda made yesterday and a hefty shake of cinnamon. They are gone far too soon, as are the hard-boiled eggs with yolks the color of marigolds.
We then start on a “hike” or, more accurately, walk, around the farm. We head down the dusty path and pass an inexplicable yellow and back Volkswagen Beetle surrounded by herbs. Katie doesn’t know exactly why it’s there but reckons it has something to do with Farmer John’s anti-pesticide bent.
It’s at least 90 degrees and the humidity is like being smothered with a hot washcloth. We walk along the long gravel drive that leads up to Angelic Organics proper as Katie points out the neat rows of corn on the monoculture farm directly on the other side of the road. They don’t have any qualms about using pesticides, Katie notes, and the farmers at Angelic Organics have had some issues when it comes to spraying crops if the wind is blowing.
Shortly, we arrive at a tiny cemetery at the foot of the Angelic Organics property. Nobody has been buried there in at least a century and a half. The headstones are tilted crazily and nearly worn smooth by the endless cycle of harsh Illinois weather. Just across the road is a tiny schoolhouse where Farmer John’s mother once taught.
We cross the road to see the Learning Center’s newest acquisition: 70 acres of as-yet unplanted land, named Kinnikinnick Fields and donated to the non-profit. It has to rest for another four years, Katie tells us, because it was used for conventional farming before the Learning Center purchased it. Land needs to rest for a minimum of seven years, Katie says, in order for it to be considered organic. It is a great labor of love to wait so many years to use the land. The Learning Center at Angelic Organics only manages thanks to the generous donations of those who recognize good things are worth the wait.
Gesturing out at the gently rolling land, Katie tells us how she and the other members of the Learning Center envision more wooly Scottish Highland cattle grazing there one day, along with an overnight immersion center for students where they can stay for a weekend and see what it’s like to work on an organic, biodynamic farm.
We turn back to the farm for some mindfulness meditation and lunch. Amanda leads us in a conversation about practicing mindfulness while eating; actually enjoying our food and not just gulping down calories. We then meditate for seven minutes. Well, everyone else meditates. I take a seven-minute nap.
After lunch, we join Amanda in making several delicious recipes including two kinds of raw date balls with cocoa powder and cinnamon. A salty-sweet seaweed nut brittle wafts bewitching fumes from the oven as it turns crispy and golden brown.
While the brittle bakes, we go around in a circle and share some last thoughts and what Katie calls appreciations. Thanks for an incredible weekend are shared across the circle, and one of the participants notes that she has now learned to always massage her kale.
Another woman takes this opportunity to thank the entire group for maintaining an interest in good and wholesome food. “It is so difficult to find people who care about the good things,” she tells us. “Thank you.”
Katie closes the circle by telling us how happy she is that we all came to visit Angelic Organics. “Once you’ve been here, it’s your farm,” she tells us. “And we hope you come back and visit again and see what things are growing and working.”
Almost everyone clears out quite quickly after the circle breaks up. Reluctant to leave, I head back outside to say a final goodbye to the goats, who are very pleased to receive a few more head scratches, and the chickens who scurry madly away from my outstretched hand.
Finally, after helping Amanda load her car with the cooking supplies she brought, I can no longer prolong the moment and must say my goodbyes. Katie and I exchange emails and promise to discuss further volunteering opportunities this fall. Amanda follows me on Instagram and Twitter. We hug.
I take fifteen more selfies with the chickens and the goats and the rolling fields in the background and set my Google Maps app to avoid freeways. I take county roads home; driving at a leisurely pace and covering my car in dust, watching the farmland recede behind me.
*Jessica’s visit to the Organic Farm Retreat was sponsored by Angelic Organics Learning Center.