The barn at Pot Pie Farm burned to the ground some ten days ago.
I started – and stopped – this post a hundred times since. Ach…
Nobody was in the barn when it went; comfort, but not enough, to the people that knew it and loved it. The Yonkers and their family are heartbroken, as is Carol Bean, who earns her income from working that small organic farm, and her husband who’s worked every inch of it. The Beggins family, who raised their daughters there, are deeply saddened.
Hundreds of people are struck by this loss. Neighbors, friends, the FRESHFARM community.
See, the barn at Pot Pie Farm was more than an old historic barn. It was the heart of that place. Its identity was so strong, it was almost a person.
We lost a friend.
The barn was a meeting place, common ground, where many of us in this rural neck go in good times and in bad, in winter, spring, summer and fall to experience local foods. Annual November bonfires, spring planting, summer picnics, St. Michaels FRESHFARM market fundraisers, pig roasts, egg packing and the home of Carol’s CSA. Thursdays, CSA shareholders trickle in and out, arriving to share the bounty (and now the loss) of the small operation.
How many times did that barn hold us in our dark days, and buoy us in our delights? A meeting place, yes, and a place of possibility, a neutral ground, a place in the fresh air where everyone felt connected to nature, to the Bay, to the fertile ground, to local food.
How many fantastic conversations were had in there – every subject in the world covered, sitting at a table cutting microgreens, or relaxing with foodie magazines, or at potluck dinners, meeting new friends and neighbors? Recipe sharing, pickle and jam making, watermelon and tomato juicing and that fabulous green garlic radish butter making – all whirled together in a whooshing memory of place.
That place embodied a solid sense of place unlike any other place I know.
Chickens, clucking in and out. Barn swallows, swooping to their nests in the rafters. Mia the dog, sound asleep, then trotting fast to hurl herself at your thighs in greeting. The luxurious apartment on the second floor with the best view ever. That well equipped kitchen, where we’d chop and chat and cook and create. That long bench and side tables, filled with every kind of deliciousness over countless potluck suppers. The photos lining the walls of the stairway, of the old farmer walking his livestock down the long lane, of the barn decades ago, and the people inhabiting the farm over time. Our local history was captured in those wooden boards.
I recall laughing, sweating, working, eating, reading, playing and weeping there. I never did play ping pong, but I certainly helped load and unload that table countless times – with pies, eggs, pots and flowers, hot dishes and cold.
The place was an equalizer. Everyone belonged there.
The best place EVER to read seed catalogs…to commiserate…to busy oneself away from one’s own problems…
Ach, the old corncrib, home to generations of baby chicks and ducks.
Ay, the shed, packed with all the implements needed to operate an acreage – tractors, mowers, the golfcart to schlepp chicken feed, the farm van and a happy place for turkeys too.
Vey, the end of an era.
A friend, gone forever.
Yes, something will be rebuilt and things can be replaced, eventually. But the hot summer sun continues to beat down on those plants in the garden and the chickens need water and food twice a day. The farm life goes on, without it. And Carol Bean is rustling up replacement-everything to keep things going. She’s working to find new ways to process and handle the garden’s bounty until something new is built. As if running an organic garden and CSA isn’t hard enough already…
No surprise, the community is stepping up. Today at the St. Michaels farmers market, more than 40 people signed up to help in some unknown way in future weeks. Wallets and hearts are opening to support these people who have fed us, supported us, taught us and gave so much. Maybe there will be some fundraisers, or barn raisings or whatever. But it’s going to take a long while before things are fully operational again. There is much work to be done – things re-configured, re-thought, rebuilt, re-imagined. A new era, I suppose, is in the works.
Yet those weeds keep growing, and tomatoes are ripening and things need harvested. And oh, look, it’s time to feed the chickens again. But the golf cart is gone and the tools and buckets and hoses all melted and every single damn thing is hard now. Every single thing. It’s one thing to try to eek out a living operating an organic market garden in good times. It’s quite another thing to do it in times like this.
So much love to our friends who have sustained this loss – may the better times that are surely ahead help wipe away today’s pain.
<Want to help? Pot Pie Farm, PO Box 7, Wittman, MD 21676>