For the longest time I’ve been meaning to blog about a conversation that occurred at my dinner table a while ago. One of our dinner guests was Jon, a beef farmer we’d come to know nearly three years earlier. The first case of mad cow had just hit the U.S. Aaron and I resolved to no longer buy our beef from unknown sources so we drove an hour west to load up our car with grass-raised beef to last us through the winter. The farmer, a young guy our age, invited us in for coffee and our friendship was born. Another one of our dinner guests who was meeting Jon for the first time asked, “So, you’re a farmer – what’s that like?”
Jon had this twinkle in his eye when he explained, “Remember when you were a kid on summer vacation and you went outside to play in the morning and you had the whole day in the outdoors stretching endlessly ahead of you? That’s what my job is like. I get up in the morning and I work outdoors all day and it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like play.”
Our dinner that night, as was always the case when Jon came to visit, was beef Jon raised himself. I swear you could taste Jon’s joy in his work in that beef. Every time he showed up at our house he had cuts of beef for us and one of our running jokes was how and when we’d ever repay Jon for all the beef he brought to us.
This Thanksgiving Jon came for dinner and he brought the turkey, a natural, farm-raised 15-pounder from a local farm—it was delicious. We spent the evening as we always did… talking, eating and drinking, laughing, playing music. Leaving early the next morning, he climbed into his van to make deliveries of beef to Boston-area restaurants—when Jon wasn’t playing, he was working… or perhaps there was no either/or, it was all the same to him. We made plans to go out to his farm for dinner real soon.
Two days later, Jon was killed in a car accident. Now the homegrown beef in our freezer brings tears to our eyes. Aaron worried last night asking, “Do you think he knows how much he meant to us?” I think he knows, and I hope he knows how much he was a hero to me too.
Jon went to his first Farm Aid concert this year in Camden; he and Aaron had a great time, watching the show and going backstage with their passes. I was proud that my friend, a farmer, was there to see what I do. He was just psyched to see the show and meet some celebrities. That was Jon… he didn’t know he was a celeb himself. To me he was, though…he was a young farmer, doing a good thing, loving it, and succeeding at it. We’ll feel his loss for a long time—his friendship and love of life will be hard to forget—but we’ll enjoy the result of his hard work until the freezer is empty.