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I have been reading a biography of Alice Waters, the creator of the Chez Panisse in Berkley California. I have been inspired on many levels and I have delighted in discovering what has caused her heart to quicken, voice raise, and mind wheel. I wish could tag along on one of her daily walks and ask her question upon question, allowing her deep passion for life to blow on the tiny flame in me.

Alice loved to see others flourish and found the most interesting people to invest in. ┬áIt was one of Alice’s mission’s to find a farmer that would grow the food that she wanted for her restaurant, when she wanted it. She interviewed and visited numerous farmers and eventually found Bob Cannard. I can understand why Alice chose him, he was a farmer that was also a researcher, educator, and storyteller:

Nobody could ever had dreamed up Bob Cannard, or his farm in Sonoma Country. His crops were choked with weeds. Some of the weeds came in wild – rye, filaree, mallow – but some he planted himself – barley, vetch, tritical. It looked like total disorder: a tomato plant here, a pepper there, three cabbages, a cluster of carrots. When Alice walked Bob’s fields, the ground was springy as a mattress, so ruck was it in organic matter. Bob would clutch a fistful of topsoil and shove it under her nose. “It’s delicious!” he would proclaim, and pop some in his mouth. He talked nonstop. He would pluck a fruit or vegetable, carve off a piece, and grinning, command, “Taste that.” It would be, reliably, the best turnip, radish, apricot, carrot, or avocado Alice had ever tasted. “Happy plants!” he would exclaim. Sometimes he sang to them.

And he loved to talk about them. “You can read the whole plant,” he said. “It’s right there before you, and if you pay attention to the nature of the bark and the quality of the leaves and the grow habits and all of the observable and smellable and tastable characteristics, you can see the past history of a plant. In its new growth, you can see its present. If it had a bad past and has a bad present, why, then, it’s going to be pretty difficult for it to have a good future, but a sick plant is one of your greatest teachers. The most important yield, as far as I’m concerned, is that I have been able to become a true cultivator of nature. I can go out into almost any circumstance and grow almost anything. With health. With health” (McNamee 222).

 

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