The Muddy Pumpkin Farms, Oacoma, South Dakota | Day Drunk: The Muddy Pumpkin Farms, Oacoma, South Dakota

May 9, 2013

The Muddy Pumpkin Farms, Oacoma, South Dakota

I realize that I am a little behind schedule on posts that are relevant to my current situation. Like, how can I blather on about how awesome it is to be back at the Muddy Pumpkin if I haven't even mentioned anything at all about it yet? So here are cliff's notes on how a suburban-born city-dweller ended up falling in love with the remote and extreme lands of the White River delta region of South Dakota.

First off, I will start of by once again reminding you all that I am a lover of flat lands and prairie grasses. The first time I entered South Dakota in 2008, I was instantly in love with it's exotic fields of wheat and the overall massive scale that everything seemed to be on. I felt like Super Mario in Giant Land, if you get my reference. And the first time I saw the Badlands, I was reduced to tears at the beauty of it all.

So, when AGP and I were planning our roadtrip last spring, I knew I had to take him to South Dakota. So I arranged for us to WWOOF at a farm called the Muddy Pumpkin. (For those who don't know what WWOOF-ing is, it stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It is an organization that facilitates placing volunteers at organic farms. And it is awesome.)

Towards the end of June last year, AGP and I found ourselves heading towards South Dakota, me brimming with delight. As we drove the loooooong dirt road from the town of Oacoma to the farm, we found ourselves winding along the hills of the Missouri River towards our destination. It was a sweltering 100 degrees F. As we approached the farm, we were greeted by a small orange cat, lots of antique looking farm equipment, several cars in various states of disrepair, gnawed on animal parts strewn about, and not much else. Apprehension settled upon me. And it's funny how wrong first impressions can be.

The Muddy Pumpkin is a farm that is operated on land that has been in the Werner family for decades. Today, the youngest brother, Mark, and his dad toil loyally on the land to do something that pretty much no one else in the entire state of South Dakota is doing: growing organic vegetables. And that is no easy feat. As I write this in the kitchen of a farm house that is both peaceful and hectic at the same time, this region of South Dakota (and many other parts of the country) are experiencing what could possibly become the worst drought since the dust bowl. And all the while, they continue to grow organic veggies, despite the brutal conditions (no rain since two falls ago), the pests (drawn to the farm since it's an irrigated paradise), and the overall lack of organic vegetable culture in this remote South Dakotan outpost.

Where exactly am I? For all intents and purposes, I am in the town of Oacoma, South Dakota on the west coast of the Missouri River with a population of about 450. The farm site is located about fifteen miles from Oacoma, on a wedge of land that not only abuts the Missouri River, but also the White River. The population in his particular locale is usually 1 (Mark), with a cat to human ratio of 13:1. AGP and I make the ratio about 4:1.
 I was pretty much smitten with the Muddy Pumpkin after only a few short days. We were staying as WWOOF-ers when we first arrived, so along with Mark and a smattering of seasonal employees and other WWOOF-ers, each day we weeded and hand-tended five acres of vegetables, trellised tomatoes, and transplanted seedlings, harvested garlic, and completed all sorts of other farm tasks. We also ate insanely delicious food, played games, and made awesome new friends. And I kissed kitty after kitty after kitty after kitty. It was pretty much heaven.

After staying a week longer than anticipated, AGP and I moved on west with fond memories of the Muddy Pumpkin. But it wasn't enough. I wanted to go back. A lot. So I did, as I am wont to do. Here's how: After Burning Man, AGP had to fly back to Boston from Reno to go to classes. This was something we knew. I was in charge of getting the car from Reno back to Boston. I was also conveniently unemployed. Solution?: Muddy Pumpkin.

After an epic three day solo journey across a good portion of the country (with a detour across western Nebraska, of course <3 <3), I arrived back at the Muddy Pumpkin to help out with the end of the harvest. This time for a month and a half. When it was finally time to leave again, I did so with an even heavier heart than before. I loved this place and I wanted to stay forever. So when I found myself with another convenient break in employment responsibilities, I packed up my boyfriend and our tiny house, and drove across the country through long dark nights

It is nearly impossible for me to properly and literately condense the reasons I love this place. Okay, yea, it's full of cats (and three brand new kittens!!!!) that I adore, and there is a local horseradish cheese that I have already eaten a block of. It is quiet and e x p a n s i v e and painfully bucolic in an apocalyptic kind of way. But it is also harsh and demanding, windy and hot and dry. It is prickly and full of ticks and the typical hectic-ness of farm life. There are fresh eggs and fresh food. There is an epic roof deck on a two story house. There are rattlesnakes and coyotes you can hear all night long. There is the joy of dirt under your fingernails and streaked across your face. There is life well spent with your hands in the earth.

But what I think I like most about the Muddy Pumpkin is living close to nature and to the prairie. We spend the majority of our days outside transforming this fertile flood plain into an organic food growing environment. That's not surprising for me, because even though I was raised in the heart of the suburbs, I grew up telling people with bewildered looks on their faces that I wanted to drive directly into the heartland and never leave.

I also like growing vegetables in a place that no one else would even think of, and I like giving those vegetables to people. I think it's noble. I love the history of this land and the fact that the Werner's haven't given up on this difficult and seemingly outdated lifestyle. I think that is noble as well. 

Oh, and did I mention the cats?

Sky, Katie, and LeBron

No comments:

Post a Comment