Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land
Kurt Timmermeister talks about his new memoir, his life on the land, and why he chose to build a farm from the ground up.
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“I started as a waiter 30-and-some years ago. I think I was a good waiter because I’m always very calm and not much bothers me. Things happen constantly, and you just need the ability to keep going and trying to keep calm and so on. I think I’m pretty good at it at this point. I may be screaming on the inside….”Skip to next paragraph
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"With raw milk, “I think I was one of the very few people who was in the middle on that, where I liked it but didn’t love it, and I understood the problems with it but I also understood there was some benefit to it. I liked being in the middle. Both ends of it were ridiculous … and there was no middle for them to come to.”
On the responsibility of keeping cows, with a milking ritual that the book says has “become my practice – in the Buddhist sense of the word":
"Every day of my life, I do the same thing, in exactly the same way.... Ninety-nine times out of 100 that Zen experience is very positive. One percent of them are just hell, it’s frozen or the power’s out, or there’s so much rain. It’s hard to present that as writing about reality, that doesn’t sound like you’re whining.”
On why he didn’t give in to the temptations of giving up the farm and returning to city life:
“I’m very, very stubborn, and I don’t like to lose – ever. I stick with almost anything, I’ll stick with it and learn it and make it right. I’ve certainly often been tempted … to say I can’t do this anymore. Cheese has been another challenge. It’s incredibly complicated, far more so than I anticipated, to make a consistent excellent cheese every day in different seasons and different conditions.”
On the next book he hopes to write:
“A cookbook that starts on the land. [For instance]: ‘These are cows, this is what they are fed, this is how they are slaughtered and butchered. Now we have 25 different cuts of meat and here’s what we are going to do with it.’
"Food doesn’t show up at the grocery store independently. It’s a really weird paradigm we’ve created. I want to break that down a little, and explain where these things come from, and how they’re cooked and manipulated.”
On the future, and why he is ending the farmhouse dinners that kept Kurtwood financially sustainable in the early years:
“I’ve done it…. I realize that, as is my nature, I have to stop it or I’ll just go through the motions….
"Maybe it’s a function of age. I’m 48, and life is really short and we’re just flying through it. I don’t want to do anything that’s rote and predictable at this point. I like projects that are 5 years and 10 years long, and I’m challenged, and I can learn something new....”
“I want to always be standing on that cliff, looking over, and not sure how it’s going to work.”