Today my garden group went to a local farm operated by a community of Tibetan Buddhists. They were not, said our guide, ascetic; rather, they believed in appreciating what we perceive through our senses, the pleasure and beauty of everything around us. Their gardens, both the formal and the informal, were beautiful, bounteous, even scenic. They had happy goats. They grew produce in raised beds, and sponsored art shows and poetry readings on the lawns. A young fellow was double-digging row after row of raised beds with a big, cheery smile on his face.
Our guide himself was an artist as well as a gardener, and had painted a magnificent mural of buddhas in the large and airy shrine, upstairs in the second barn. There were other artists at the farm, too, and it was graced with stonework, bronze sculptures, wooden shelters, Monet arches with clematis being trained over them, a pond full of koi. The fish wintered over in the pond, but had to be protected from mink that came looking for them. Mink! Little luxury coats, just slinking around right out in the open!
Michigan is farm country, however much the rest of the nation thinks of it as Detroit and cars, and Ann Arbor is quite a foodie town, in no small part due to access to high-quality, local-transit fresh food. I hadn’t realized this because, first of all, I thought it was all corn, and second, well, winter. But it’s not just produce – it’s beef raised eating grass in fields, eggs and chickens from actual barnyards, cheese from happy goats like these. Once in my small, locally-owned grocery store, I saw a group of Amish farmers – to tell by their clothes – sitting in the small cafe area, talking to the store manager. It was February; they were talking about what crops sold well the year before, and what therefore they should plant for the coming season. This is “local” in action.
For more on the Buddhist farm, see http://whitelotusfarms.com