The Farmer as a Local Celebrity
“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”
– Lily Tomlin
I’m talking to my husband on the phone when suddenly I realize we’re not alone in our conversation.
“You can’t escape unrecognized!” comes the sing-songy voice of one enthusiastic woman. My husband engages her in conversation about how they’ll be seeing more of each other now that the season is starting. I wait in silence.
“Sorry,” he says when he remembers I’m still on the phone.
“That’s OK, Farmer Shaun,” I say, “that’s what I get for marrying a celebrity.” He chuckles and then we continue to talk about the kale I’ll be steaming for dinner.
This is nothing new to me. I’ve long realized that the public shares claim to my husband. Shaun is a farmer for a non-profit that teaches school kids throughout our local district, so we’ve had a hard time going out in public without being flagged down. Whether the people come up to my knee or tower over me, it’s always the same:
“Hey look, it’s Farmer Shaun!”
“You’re so great!”
“We love your broccoli, Farmer Shaun!”
I know if it were me, I wouldn’t handle the attention with the same grace. Shaun’s cheeks blush redder than tomatoes at the slightest hint of compliment. His fame is probably only awarded because of what makes him so good with the plants, with the kids, and with the community—his patience, his kindness, and his modesty.
And any jealousy on my part is tempered by the beauty of it all. Celebrities come in all forms, but for our town, that form is a farmer. He’s not noticed for the perceived figure of his paycheck or the car he drives (though I guess you could say there’s a certain allure to his pickup truck). When people call Shaun out, they’re always reporting back to him about what their kids say about the farm, or how delicious the veggies he sold them were, or how they want to come help him plant again this year. Shaun is famous for the value he helps people realize in themselves and in the world around them.
If we were in Portland, Oregon, or Burlington, Vermont, Shaun might blend in more. But in our little city-town of Morristown, New Jersey, there’s never been an entity like this. I know because I grew up here. In my child and teen years, I was more likely to see the lawyers at the courthouse or the doctors at the large hospital as my target for lifetime achievement.
But the kids coming up in our town now might see things differently. Hopefully with someone like Shaun around, they won’t just want to grow up here, they’ll want to grow here.
Rebecca Karger’s husband, “Farmer Shaun” Ananko, manages the Urban Farm for the non-profit Grow It Green Morristown.
Is there a local celebrity farmer in your area?
Photo Credit: Maureen Denman
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