Welcome to Eat Real, a blog about small-scale, diversified, natural farming in central Maine, the local food movement, food policy, seasonality and information about how to prepare and enjoy the results of it all. My name is Ryan Parker and I run and my wife and I own Parker Family Farm. I have lived in Maine all of my life and though I have traveled extensively and had a number of diverse jobs and education I have made a very conscious set of choices that have led me and my wife to live in central Maine with our children. Indeed, for almost a decade I’ve been engaged in what some people judge to be an impossible, ridiculous endeavor. I’ve been growing vegetables, herbs and fruit without pesticides, herbicides or synthetic chemicals of any kind.
I’ve been raising pasture based, free ranging and work ranging animals without antibiotics, hormones or cages.
I’ve been selling these things through a CSA and farmers’ markets directly to a loyal and growing customer base without the involvement of distributors, storefronts or taxpayer subsidies.
And I’ve been enjoying the most delicious, healthy, vitamin and nutrient dense food, fresh air and sunshine.
For many readers this blog may serve as an introduction to an unknown world. It is an unfortunate but predictable and intentional effect of government and industrial policy over the last one hundred years (intensifying in the last forty years) that the vast majority of people have simply forgotten.
Collectively, our society has forgotten that we always have been and forever will be attached to the land. We have forgotten that the third most important thing in our lives (after only air and water) comes from the land which we’ve long been taking for granted. Indeed we have forgotten the very fact that food is the third most important thing we need to survive. My hope is that with this blog a few more of us will begin to remember.
Each week I will invite you to join me on the farm through pictures and my descriptions of what is going on in the fields, the forests, the gardens or in the wider world as it affects my farm and therefore your stomach. You’ll get to see piglets, born outside without human involvement or intervention, that are only hours old. You’ll get to see how and when vegetables are started, transplanted, cared for, harvested and packed for the Parker Family Farm customers, whether through the CSA or at our farmer’s market stands. I’ll share with you the joyful experiences of watching my children grow up with a deep connection to the land and understanding things that most children simply are not exposed to anymore, let alone regularly.
But you’ll also be let in on the heartache, stress and panic that can be part of the farming lifestyle. Leaving the greenhouse closed too long can destroy a beautiful crop of spinach only a week before opening day at market. A late frost can destroy the tomato plants that I’ve been babying for two months. Sometimes piglets don’t make it. Sometimes the worst stressors are outside interference from ignorant law makers and bureaucrats or thoughtless comments from ignorant shoppers. You’ll get to see it all here.
A warning. I am irreverent, sarcastic, loquacious (as you’ve no doubt discerned) often described as cynical (though I see it as realistic), thoughtful (hopefully), opinionated and proudly, admittedly biased toward natural farming and away from industrial production, society and many other things the average person doesn’t seem to question. I seek not to be objective but to relate the truth as I experience and live it, from my perspective.
My hope is that through this blog you will begin to regain some of the awareness about food (real and fake), where it should come from and where it often does in reality, the reasons grocery store food is so ‘cheap’ and real, local, pesticide free food is so ‘expensive’, that you cannot have eggs or chicken breast or bacon or for that matter broccoli without the death of animals and that weeds often seem to want life more than the vegetables you want farmers to grow for you.
With this better understanding you can help those of us who are engaged in this work as we continue to struggle against so many odds; fighting battles with the weather, bugs, weeds, the government, multinational corporations and ignorance all for the purpose of providing our neighbors and communities with the safest, best quality, real food possible. But more importantly from your perspective, the information you’ll learn by reading this blog may literally save your life. If you don’t understand why following your doctor’s advice does not help you shake your chronic illness or loose weight the answers will surface here. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about food that will make you healthier, happier, more attentive, less prone to injury and guilt-free. So join me here each week as I discuss local food and everything that surrounds it from how it should be grown to how it should be prepared and even eaten. From the farmers themselves to the politics of the profession you’ll get an insider’s view and a real taste of life on the farm and on the plate. Local food. Eat well – be well.