Stillman’s Farm at Charles Square Farmers Market 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, MA
Photo: Roanne Monte/L’Arietta.com
Rebecca Stillman is a contradiction of sorts: petite but robust, mild-mannered but eager, and uncomplicated but knowledgeable. “The challenge is getting it picked and getting it here,” she expressed, as I soaked in the palpable freshness that is the Charles Square Farmers’ Market. From heirloom tomatoes to zucchinis, kale, and cauliflower, the cultivars ran the gamut of an exaggerated primary color spectrum.
Like a typical urbanite, I once had utopic notions about how farms work. Visions of cows languidly munching on lush green pastures, chickens roaming freely, and handpicked vegetables grown with regard to their genetic composition. As some of us know, however, the majority of our food comes from that huge quasi-ecosystem called Big Ag. Stomach-churning CAFOs (or concentrated animal feeding operations), patented seeds from Monsanto, and degraded soil from excessive pesticide use are merely a few of the factors that make up commercial agriculture. Burrowed in this conglomerate of sorts, is the prohibitive nature of organic certification, which can be an expensive and arbitrary process for farmers.
Juxtaposed with Big Ag, it would seem that directly marketing to consumers via CSAs and farmers’ markets would be a tall order, impossible even. While Rebecca explained the cultivation practices of Stillman Farms, I realized the extent to which they would go to ensure the humane treatment of animals. Stillman recently acquired an abattoir and meats are slaughtered according to USDA standards. They handle all of their own processing, allowing for a wider range of products from hanger steak to smoked brisket. Stillman’s commitment does not stop at livestock, as the season starts come January, they choose vegetables that “can handle the cold and [that] are adequate for green housing.”
Today, Stillman’s Farm boasts a healthy following of customers, from families to chefs—all of whom Rebecca happily informs about their products. From educating the consumer about the availability of produce by season to the accompanying recipes in CSA boxes, it is clear that Stillman Farms “take pride in what [they] do.”
As my time with Rebecca drew to a close—my inner locavore keen to get to my market haul including truffle pasta—it dawned on me that none of this would be possible without Rebecca and her fellow farmers. This is the slow food movement, a movement which despite contention that it is an urban hipster affliction, I am guiltily and gladly part of. It exists because of the hard work and dedication of people who care to give us options. It matters greatly because we all get hungry, we all need to eat, and we all need food.