When given the opportunity to visit a place called “The Funky Chicken Farm” and meet the people who run it, well, how can you pass on an opportunity like that?
I drove inland from the coast in Sebastian, Florida and turned at the Funky Chicken Farm sign. When I got out of my air conditioned car I realized that when you take away a pleasant ocean breeze, Florida can be really hot!
Suzanne is there, in a tie-dyed t-shirt. We start to talk but soon realize the geese aren’t really going to let us do that. They are in a pen forty feet away or so, and we are obviously in their territory. The honking and hissing make it nearly impossible to talk. We move away from them to the driveway. Here we find evidence of two of Suzanne’s passions.
There’s a makeshift store there protected by a portable garage. There are two racks of tie-dyed shirts for sale and a table with eggs and packets of seeds labeled “heirloom seeds”. I mention that when I think of “heirloom” I think of a quilt I might find in my grandmothers attic, hilarious I know. But it’s all that is needed to get Suzanne talking about something near and dear to her heart.
She tells me how important it is to continue to save seeds from the plants that grow in your garden – the heirloom seeds. She is concerned that the hybrid seeds that you purchase in the stores come from mixed genetic material. She feels good knowing that the parent plants of her tomatos grew in this same soil, adapted to this climate, and are a part of the ecosystem that she has created here.
That table is a place where people come to take and leave seeds she tells me. It’s a resource that she offers to the community around her. She is dedicated to helping people become more self-sufficient and learn to live closer to the land they live on.
It becomes clear before too long that the Funky Chicken Farm is a gathering place for lots of people. We are interupted non-stop by cars coming down the drive, people coming for seeds, eggs, or just to say “hi” to Suzanne. She treats every person like a best friend when they arrive, often offering them a seat so they can chat for a few minutes.
In-between visitors we walk around to the back of the house to see her garden. On the way she tells me that she teaches classes ranging from tie-dye to composting to gardening to raising poultry. I can hear in her voice how much she gains from sharing the knowledge she has, she loves teaching. The land we are on is about 5 acres, and has been in the family since World War II. She points through the forest and says her sister lives over there. The family has stayed close, divided up the land, and I get the sense they love it here.
Suzanne’s garden is remarkable. Simple. Organic. Beautiful. Orange trees grow there too. Have you ever had a freshly picked orange? They are amazing.
Soon more cars can be heard coming down the driveway, and Suzanne has to get back to her busy life. In parting she tells me that it’s time in our country to start developing more of a “permaculture”. It’s time to start eating food that is closer to the harvest. She’s concerned that our distribution systems are so fragile, and one natural occurance can interupt the flow of food. Living closer to the land, getting your hands dirty, eating food that you’ve harvested is a great reward – and self-sufficiency brings peace of mind.
As she turns to greet her next set of best friends, she introduces me to her husband Andrew. I’ll tell you more about him in Part 2.
Sadly I didn’t get a chance to really connect with Suzanne. The interuptions from geese and people made it hard to really have the conversation I would have preferred. But I’m glad I met her, and got to look at the world, for a moment, through her eyes and see the good things that she is working hard to accomplish with her life.