Oxford English Dictionary defines the word artisan (noun) as (1) A worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand or as a modifier (1.1) (Of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients:
- local artisan cheeses
- the growing appreciation of artisan foods
I'd argue though, that artisan is something more.
When you start selling at the Farmer's Market you are, in essence, stripping yourself down and asking the world to comment on what they see. This farm is our heart and soul and the products that come off of it are a reflection of us. The sample you see on the table in front of you isn't just a package of cheese. It's more than the twice daily milkings, the constant monitoring of hooves and skin conditions, the hauling of hay from two hours away because you were able to find a better deal on better stuff. That cheese you see before you is years of struggle and loss.
It's waking up in the middle of the night to do barn checks and finding a premature set of triplets dead on the ground with no mother in sight. It's having your favorite goat die in your arms, after you've already invested thousands of dollars in her care. It's walking the fenceline in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm looking for your dogs, who you know are trying to protect their goats, but who you worry about far too much.
That cheese you see before you is pain and suffering. It's tears. It's blood. It's sweat. It's more tears.
We use the word artisan to describe what we are making, cheese made in a traditional way with high-quality ingredients. We call ourselves artisans because we make this cheese, this magical cheese, by hand.
But it's not enough.
Artisan is the reason we do this.
Everyone has loss. We know that. And we don't diminish that. The difference is, with farming, setbacks and loss seem to grow like weeds. Because of this struggle, because farming is basically just one sucker punch to the gut after another, we celebrate our successes like we have just won The Olympics. It's those terrible, horrible, no good life events that allow us to feel the intense and overwhelming happiness that comes from the tiniest of victories.
Artisan is a verb.
Never before has this become more evident to us than when sitting behind our booth at the Farmer's Market. All around us there are bakers, farmers, sewers, fishermen, woodworkers...people are making things. Each individual is a representation of a dream. And each individual comes with their own struggles, heartache, and loss. But we don't tell you about those messes when we put our products in front of you. You only see our successes. And you better believe we put them out in front of you like we just gave birth to the next golden child, all in hopes that you will buy it.
In the past farmers farmed out of necessity to feed our country. The industrialization of our food system has broken this need. If all the local farms quit farming we surely would not starve. But, we would, arguably, die a slow death of twinkies and ho-hos. We farm because we believe that food is better than what our country has turned it into. We farm because creating food from nothing gives us a sense of purpose we can't find anywhere else. We farm because we love food. We also farm because we are masochists.
Even though succumbing to the torturous decision to make your living off of your handiwork isn't for everyone, supporting these idealistic fools is. When you support a local farm, a local artisan, when you buy their product, you are sharing in their failures and you are becoming part of their successes. You may not be an artisan, but you are helping to keep the artisan movement alive. And maybe, that's even more admirable. You have a choice of who and what you support. We sincerely hope that delicious, creamy goat cheese is one of them.
Meanwhile we'll be busy at the farm, trying to move on and learn from our failures and relishing in our tiny successes.
Excuse me while I artisan the shit out of this life.