The first official day of Spring Break was almost over, as was the rain that had been pouring down all day long. So much had come from the clouds in so little time I almost called and cancelled dinner plans. The plans, you see, included some navigation on an Oklahoma dirt road to reach my destination and I wasn’t sure my little white Jetta was up for the slide-and-react task left by gully washers.
But late that afternoon, the hostess for our evening sent out a message: “the roads drain well, so dinner is still on.” The note was all the encouragement I needed. I needed to de-stress from a busy semester, I already had a reservation for that night at Roman Nose, and I wanted to meet this particular group of young farmers who were coming together to see the completed Base Vines and Cattle Schoolhouse in Geary, OK.
To say Aaron and Jennifer Base have sweat equity in their newly restored eighty year-old, one-room Schoolhouse is an understatement. They’ve infused every piece of lumber, all the nails, the foundation blocks and gallons of paint with love and hours of work.
Young farmers spend thousands of hours in their trucks going from one job to the next. On a particular day when he was with his father during a drive, they discovered the schoolhouse. Aaron began thinking, brought those thoughts back to his wife and it wasn’t long before an offer was made to purchase the schoolhouse and move it to a hilltop location on their property, overseeing Jennifer’s vineyard, their livestock and an Oklahoma sunset every evening.
Before and after photos can’t really tell the story of all the moments in between the images. And sometimes, when people work on something so hard for so long, it’s difficult for them to retell the labor-of-love narrative. But that evening, we were enjoying the result of their endeavors…sitting outside on the newest addition to their deck, in sixty degree weather, eating potluck the group had brought and swapping stories about life.
Besides hosts Aaron and Jennifer, the group included Samantha Lamb of Early Bird Acres, Andy Bowen of Walnut Creek Farms, Matt Burch of the Urban Agrarian, and I. Four farmers, a local foods retailer and an Oklahoma culture writer.
As I looked around the group that night, the drama teacher of my former self typecast the party members into a role from the musical, “Oklahoma!” I imagined Aaron and Jennifer could take the roles of Curly and Laurie easily, Samantha, if cajoled enough could step into the Ado Annie role and do quite well, Matt could easily fill Will’s role and Andy, with his quiet rockabilly demeanor, slight brooding and intellect could pull off Jud Fry in a heartbeat. I suppose that left me to be Aunt Eller, and I was okay with that…I’m always up for a good musical.
It’s a private game I play, casting a particular group I’m with into a particular musical. But this group personified “Oklahoma!” much better than any actors on stage. They were actually living the life, building their dreams and working out the details of their next moves. Perhaps in some ways people would still call them greenhorns, but the collective wisdom among this group of young farmers was anything but non-schooled.
In between the stories of “how to kill and/or eat (depending upon the age and time of year) wild hogs” and “boot knives and perpetrators” were conversations about markets, pricing, events, products and services. Sharing of information was one of the agendas, but discovery and exploration of new retailers, new customers and new ways to make their way in the world was another. Stories of things working out, and sometimes not working out were balanced among the milieu of exchange – lending the identity of the conversation among peers to be well balanced, thoughtful and intentional.
In other words, these Greenhorns were anything but green. They were more…true blue. Loyal to each other, loyal to their pursuits and loyal to doing things right.
In other, other words? They were third or fourth generation of the Oklahoma prairie, making the business of farming and ranching newer, fresher and revitalized for themselves and those around them.
I urge you to book your next event on top of the hill in the Schoolhouse. I urge you to check out the products and services of this group. And I wish for you a potluck dinner with beer and local wine out on a patio with friends very, very soon.