Our farming community suffered a terrible loss with the recent passing of Laura Jane Trent, an extraordinary and humble farmer who died suddenly on September 28, 2006. Laura’s 23-acre Tip Top Farm in the Vacaville region supplied exceptional produce to the Berkeley and Oakland farmers’ markets, and graced the tables of Chez Panisse, Oliveto and other top Bay Area restaurants. Those who enjoyed her okra claim there was no finer okra on the planet. Laura’s tomatoes, onions, garlic, French plums, summer squashes, figs and other crops all stood out among the various wares sold at the markets. Laura loved food as she loved the earth. She created a uniquely beautiful world, surrounding herself with people who shared her love of and capacity for hard work. Laura will be deeply missed.
A memorial fund is being set up to honor Laura’s life, details of which will be announced shortly in this and other publications and at the local farmers’ markets. Until then, we can think of no more fitting words than those of a poet:
To Be of Use
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
~ Marge Piercy ~