Fine Living Lancaster: It’s spring. You were really excited about that today at Market. What do you have planned this year? Talk about the excitement of a new season!
Ben DeGaetano: The excitement a new season brings is absolutely electrifying to a gardener. My joints get achy from not being in the sun and rigorously working; now I can stretch and use these limbs. Tyler the Creator just came out with a new album too; I’m excited about that. I’ve always identified as having an artistic mindset, so obviously the sight of all these buds trembling and itching out of tree branches and soil really gets me going. The pink moon is the most sensual—so many textures to smell, see, touch—birds singing and so much to taste. I have to admit that fringed tulips give me a lift. It’s not called spring fever for no reason. This year I want to focus on harvesting umbelliferous pollens; I want to put my pickles into larger production; I want to make the stand available to some other small scale farmers because if small farmers don’t work together, it’s going to be much harder for all of us; screw that! I also want to raise a significant amount of root vegetables for winter storage—TASTY ROOTS!
Fine Living Lancaster: Your daughter was with you, last fall, while you were harvesting. How much time do your kids spend out with you? That has to be a wonderful time spent together.
Ben DeGaetano: One of the reasons I started farming was so that I would be able raise my children with a sense of natural rhythms, great food, and strong work ethics. I try to include them as much as possible, but I don’t want to force chores on them. When farms became hyper-focused on production rather than sufficiency and simple practicality (former USDA director quoted as saying: “Get big or get out!”), I think children weren’t able to see as much beauty and became disillusioned with the agrarian lifestyle—hence the mass exodus of young people from conventional farms and a return of youth to small scale farming. My children are free to choose their own life but I want their youth to be filled with a hardworking father and meadows and fresh vegetables and finding eggs and finding frogs and shit. This year, my six-year-old son asked if he could plant some crops and sell them at my stand. I said OK.
Fine Living Lancaster: You’ve been selling stinging nettles to brew as tea. What does that taste like and what are the nutritional benefits?
Ben DeGaetano: Springtime woodland forage has been a part of the seasonal cycle of civilization since people started living in temperate climates! The early-to mid-spring was once referred to YOLO as the hungry time because it was when winter storage crops were nearly exhausted, spring crops weren’t yet fully grown, baby animals were still nursing so you couldn’t eat the baby or the mama. So what’d they do? They got those spring mushroom flushes, tender shoots from undergrowth and tree, marsh plants, and meadow weeds, and ate that shit up. Interestingly, most of these plants have tremendous stores of nutrients, which has to do with perennial roots systems tracing through low pH soil which makes for a different nutrient availability, talking about trace minerals, micronutrients and it is this that also detoxifies human systems. When we eat what the earth gives us seasonally (and not in a Martha Stewart/Dr. Oz gimmick way), we allow spring renewal to happen from within. That’s why I sell nettles.
Fine Living Lancaster: One more question: How many times can you say “YOLO” in an interview?
Ben DeGaetano: YOLO is actually so inaccurate and shortsighted and speaks to the ignorance and pig eyes of modern youth. We live each moment perpetually. YLEMP! The legacy of a life filled with meaning and purpose will endure on this earth. Celine Dion knows my heart will go on.