Food and poems intersect in a barn on a hill

francine j. harris

My two worlds have intersected in an old wooden barn with one big window covered in opaque paper allowing light to fall on a stage where poets read and musicians played alongside chickens. The barn belongs to Tilian Farm Development Center, a place that gives new farmers a head start on the road to owning their own farms. A couple of the farmers are friends we have gotten to know through writing and through our food cart venture, which has put us right in the heart of the local food movement in Ann Arbor.

I couldn’t help but feel like I was more where I wanted to be than I ever have been. My friend Deedra and her husband, Bill, own Honest Eats Farm, one of the Tilian Farms. She took me on a tour and picked a sugar snap pea off the vine for me to eat. There is nothing more sweet, nothing more satisfying that so simple burst of goodness. Growing up, I was so far away from that. The nearest I got was our annual berry picking adventures.

The event was A Bard Sings Out II, a benefit for the Tilian program. Featured among the group of poets were some of my local favorites,

Winter Sessions

Francine j. harris, Aaron McCollough and Keith Taylor, who headlined. I won’t do it justice trying to describe what it’s like to hear poets read in a barn like that. I only know that something felt so right about hearing the words move through that setting, those succulent sweet words mixed and nurtured, watered and weeded, much like the sustenance growing in the field beyond the barn.

Our friend, Nick Wilkinson, who owns A2 Pizza Pi, the cart that sits right next to ours at Mark’s Carts, took some of that sustenance and cooked wood-fired pizzas for everyone who attended. Nick makes the most delicious artisanal pizza and he has always used ingredients from another of Tilian’s farms, Green Things Farm, owned by Nate and Jill Lada.

Sitting outside with the pizza cooking and the music of the string band Winter Sessions filtering from the barn, it felt like a dream, a good dream where all my senses are heightened. I can smell the smokiness of all that good food cooking. I can ingest the images fed to me by great poets who care about things like sustainability and land and the small organic farmer in the farm to table mix. If my pictures look fuzzy, it’s because I don’t have the latest and greatest gadget. I have the anti-gadget. Or, it could be because dreams have that kind of fuzzy glow to them, that kind of “yes, it happened but you can’t really prove it” feeling. Well, as it turns it did happen. I hope to spend a little more time out there, perhaps helping my friend Deedra. Word has it she needs helps pulling weeds. I like pulling weeds.

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