It was Friday night, the farm party was in full swing when Joyce tabled the question. Her friend wanted to know why she (Joyce) would volunteer at a for-profit business.
The party quieted and leaned in over the food.
Joyce shrugged. “I told her I like working outside, I wanted to help out and Carolyn is fun.”
Satisfied, we went back to grazing the table.
The question though has stayed with me all week like an irritating hangnail I can’t shed. I find myself drifting into faux interrogations of a woman who I picture sitting at a mah-jongg table. I’m making ugly and unfair assumptions about her.
I want to interrogate her about who she deems worthy of help and why. I want to ask her questions that I’m certain I already know the answer to and which will make her feel small and petty.
This imaginary woman at this imaginary mah-jongg table has hit all my buttons.
But truthfully, I sometimes wonder the same thing. Why do all of these people give of themselves so completely for me, for my farm, for my livelihood?
The answer that comes back again and again is the same answer that made me stay in the Northern Neck five years ago when returning to DC and full time work would have been so much easier.
I stayed because I couldn’t bear leaving this community. We are like no other place I’ve known.
But, still, we are a community in need.
We are in need of a source of local, organically grown produce. If we had easy access to this many of my customers wouldn’t be stopping at Wegmans or Elwood Thompsons on their way to the Neck.
We are in need of more small businesses. Small businesses hire people. Often people with little opportunity but tremendous potential.
We are in need of small family farms. They remind of us the important values of hard work, caring for the land and a connectedness to the “real world” that many of us have lost.
We are in need of more community. Although we’re incredibly special we’re not perfect. There are still too many things that divide us. We need spaces to be together, as neighbors, as friends, as people who simply love ripe tomatoes and juicy peaches.
To all of you who have made this farm and this dream possible ~ in big ways and small ones ~ thank you. You understand what we need and you’re willing to spend your time and energy making it happen.
And to my new mah-jongg friend, who frankly asked the right question, thank you. You’ve given me so much to think about and reminded me, again, of what a special, special place the Northern Neck is.