Once in awhile you go to an event and you know it's going to be good. Dinner with friends on a warm summer evening where the food and wine are unsurpassed. A concert at Mississippi Studios with an artist who's so amazing you're blown out of your seat. And then last week I attended a class at Foster & Dobbs featuring Anthony and Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek. Now, I've written about their jam and their stand at the Hillsdale Farmers Market, so I pretty much knew it was going to be a good night.
But when they started talking about their 144 acres near Gaston and their eyes lit up when they told about the arrowhead lilies that grow there and how they changed to a drip irrigation system because the overhead sprinklers were washing out the birds' nests, I knew this wasn't going to be an ordinary evening. These two are as committed to the stewardship of their land as they are to the quality of the berries and grains they've become known for. It's evident in the way Anthony (known as the Bard of Ayers Creek) describes how the lake on their property is returning and that the least bitterns, herons and eagles are coming back. And, too, when Carol says that they stop picking the berries when the fruit loses its brilliance after the first few pickings, even though there's fruit left on the vines.
We did get to taste some of that early fruit, both in the fresh and preserved state, and hear how they achieve their goal of "taking the transitory flavors of the season and concentrating them" by making the jams in small batches with only the fruit, lemon juice and organic sugar. But the real take-away from this class was the inspiration I got from two people who believe that the best change is the kind you make in your own community by doing the things you believe in. And that's worth hearing about anytime.