09 September 2007

Foreigners Everywhere

I recently posted that "Immigrants will love you" when they discover your small farm. This weekend, we had a particularly interesting experience with foreign-born visitors.

The call came in Friday afternoon from a woman with an unplacable accent. Her name sounded Indian, but I couldn't be sure; the accent wasn't quite Indian, but wasn't quite anything else. Anyway, she was looking for ducks, geese, goat...anything we might have fresh. I told her she was a week late on the goat, as our Mexican customer had bought the goat kid last weekend, taken it home, and butchered it himself. She laughed and said they certainly couldn't do that up in the Chicago suburbs. I said we had some older laying ducks, that they'd be excellent slow-roasted or stewed, and that I could butcher as many as she liked for $2.50/lb. She said she'd take four, and that they'd be down Saturday afternoon to pick them up.

So, yesterday, a large white SUV pulls into our barnyard...and a whole crowd of Indians pours out. But it turns out they're not just Indians: the family moved to the tiny South American country of Suriname about 200 years ago. The woman who'd called me had gone to college in the Caribbean, met her husband (an Indian-born Indian) there, and the two of them had settled in Chicago about ten years ago. All the other Indians in the SUV were members of her family, just arrived from Suriname for a three week visit. They wanted to get fresh farm produce, and to see "what America looks like."

I told them they'd come to the right place, and gave them a tour of the farm (which was cut short when it started raining heavily). The funniest part of the tour was when the woman's mother excitedly began fingering one of the large weeds growing along the fence line. She spoke quickly in a mix of what I later learned was Dutch and Hindi. "That's a weed, " I explained, "and I think it's poisonous."

"Oh no," the woman told me. This is ____ [I couldn't understand the name she said, and Mrs. Yeoman Farmer has been unable to find the name of it in her field guide]. In Suriname, it is a very expensive delicacy."

"Heck," I replied, "You can clear out as much of this stuff as you want!"

And with that, they began yanking out huge armloads of the weeds. One of the kids fetched a plastic bag from the house, and my customers appeared as excited about the weeds as they had about the ducks.

We continued our rain-soaked tour, and had a very nice conversation. If you'd told me six years ago that by moving to an obscure corner of downstate Illinois our farm would become a magnet for a dizzying variety of international customers seeking food unavailable anywhere else...well, I would've laughed myself silly.

And to think that people still ask if we worry about our kids being too isolated from the rest of the world living here...

2 comments:

Laurie said...

I grew up in the sticks, and I don't think I missed anything -- except drugs, cable television, graffiti, and the need for locked doors. Your life sounds rich, varied, and wholesome!

M. Alexander said...

I loved this story! My husband was born in Bombay India but his family are very much urbanites transplanted to Toronto.

The weeds part is just perfect. Too bad it wasn't saffron!