There's Magic in the Air...

Writer's note: during the farming season, I write an essay every couple of weeks for my farm’s e-newsletter. Those essays are also published in the local newspaper, and I end up publishing them in a few other places as well. It has been a great way to indulge my writerly interests and, even better, promote my farm. Every article in the paper ends with a take on:

Jordan Marr grows home-delivered veggies at The Homestead Organic Farm. You can read more of his writing at thehomesteadorganicfarm.ca.

Bam! Great promo for our CSA, and a win-win situation: the paper gets free content. Below is one of my essays from last summer. Second pointer: if your town has a fall fair, get involved. It’s lots of fun and another good way to promote what you do. At the very bottom, I’ll be back in italics to let you know what happened in the end. Enjoy!

There’s Magic in the Air…

A year ago, on a lark, I entered a strawberry-rhubarb custard pie, my Grandma Stella’s recipe, in one of the baking categories at Peachland’s Fall Fair. Not just any category, mind you. Connoisseurs of these rural festivals will know that select ones are sponsored; this pie category was brought to you by Tenderflake, which meant that, in addition to the blue ribbon, three bucks, and five points awarded to winners in every category, there would be an additional mystery prize up for grabs.

My imagination soared as I wondered what it could be. A block of lard coated in gold? A bejewelled tiara? There were strings attached, though. I had to include a proof of purchase of Tenderflake with my entry. Whatever it takes, I thought. I wanted that prize.

I won the category, and the attendant three bucks, five points, and envy of all around me. And, of course, the mystery prize, all of which would be doled out at the Sunday awards ceremony. Only, there would be no ceremony. On Sunday afternoon, a fire started in the forest up Trepanier Road, and within hours half the town was evacuated.

Two weeks later I received a call informing me that my winnings were being held at the pharmacy on Beach Avenue, where one of the fair’s volunteers worked. I raced right down.

It was an apron. It was made of the kind of plastic you put under a bedwetter’s sheets. It was yellow with blue lettering. It said ‘Tenderflake’, though they might as well have written ‘Sucker’. Oh well, I thought. That’s just part of the gamble you make as a Fall Fair Mercenary. I was about to head home when I struck up a conversation with Lorraine, the volunteer. She asked me why I hadn’t entered some of my veggies in the fair. I offered that it didn’t seem right given that I’m a commercial grower, though I might have added that there were no sponsored categories on the veggie side. “I wish you would,” she told me. “The fair hasn’t been won by a Peachlander in years.”

She went on to explain that for the last few years, the aggregate title, which is awarded to the top points-earner each year, have gone to one Barb Heaney, a Westbanker. It seemed to pain Lorraine greatly to tell me that. Reportedly, Barb has taken to calling our town ‘Teachland’ because she’s been schooling its residents for so long on how to bake, craft, and grow things.

Suddenly, some disparate observations I had made since moving to Peachland, hitherto unexplained, coalesced into an epiphany for me. The heavy-hearted way all the locals seemed to shuffle about town; their weird habit of spitting on the ground every time I tried to sell them some rhubarb, or invite them to a barbecue, or buy some barbed wire; their peculiar custom of driving to Merrit, then Kamloops, then Vernon to get to Kelowna. Peachlanders had been living with a shame that won’t be lifted until someone brings the aggregate back home where it belongs.

Something happened to me then. My desire for fall fair spoils faded away, replaced by a resolve to correct the slight that has robbed our fine town of its collective dignity. I made a promise that day: that I would do everything I could to win the aggregate in 2013.

And so, here we are, days away from the big showdown. My best veggies have been flagged; the baking powder bin is full; I scrimped and saved for a new bikini for the swimsuit competition. Outsiders like Barb Heaney will find their task just a bit more difficult this year, because I’ll be adding a special ingredient to my baking that they don’t have access to: my pp. Peachland Pride, that is. I’ve been told Barb may have retired from competition. It doesn’t matter. There will be other challengers, and I’ll meet them all with flaky pastry, gargantuan beets, and adorable photos of kittens. Get ready, folks. Things may get ugly in the Peach this weekend, but remember: the night is darkest just before dawn. See you at the fair.

–Jordan Marr arranges flowers and does needlepoint at The Homestead Organic Farm. You can read more of his writing at thehomesteadorganicfarm.ca.

I’m back. Since I’m sure you’re dying ot know: I came up short by a few points. Shattered dreams. But at least a Peachlander took home the title this year. 

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