Last week I traveled to Eaton Rapids, Michigan to photograph Mark Kastner's organic farm, Hillcrest Farms.
Mark learned the wonders of agriculture from his grandmother. She became interested in organic, chemical-free food after learning about the effects of pesticides on the environment, including the bird population as discussed in the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962).
Mark starts all of his produce from seed, so he can control the growing process from beginning to end.
As a result of being involved in each step of the process, Mark is able to answer most questions about his produce.
Thanks to Mark's hoop houses, he is able to grow and produce fresh produce for the community year-round.
I was captivated by the beautiful textures and colors in Mark's produce from the crisp lines in the bok choy to the grit of the rich soil.
As I look at some of these images, I can't decide if I am looking at the topography of green rolling hills separated by a purple highway or a close-up of kale.
I didn't get to meet all of Mark's helpers at our session but I did get to meet some of his most valuable employees - his pollinators!
The care, dedication and attention that Mark gives to his land and produce are evident, as are his knowledge and expertise in organic farming.
As Mark showed me his celery plants, he discussed the idea of "grow-slow". Slow food was a concept founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986, promoting local agriculture, small businesses, and sustainable food with an emphasis on quality over quantity.
Mark takes his time growing his produce. His romaine lettuce takes four months to mature but the result is a tastier and more nutritiously dense harvest than varieties that are mass-produced by conventional agriculture.
The concept of "grow slow" struck me as I walked through the farm with Mark. It's a great metaphor that I can apply to my life as a busy mom of three in a parenting culture where busy is the baseline. Just like large-scale agriculture, we are going too fast, depleting the nourishment we need from both our soil and our souls.
When we take the time to slow down, we create the space we need to take in the beauty that surrounds us. Like Mark's produce, we will grow deeper roots and be healthier if we just take it slow.
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Want to read more about the slow food movement? Go here
Want to connect with Hillcrest Farms? Find them here