I just finished reading The Third Plate, chef Dan Barber’s new book that examines the dimension where good farming and good food intersect—the “third plate.” For us at Stone Barns Center, it’s wonderfully serendipitous that Dan’s book was published this year, in which we mark our 10th anniversary. As a founding member of our board, Dan has been an important partner and driving force behind the Center’s work. So many of the ideas that he explores in his much-celebrated book, he formed here on the farm.
Dan’s ideas are timely and important: the concept of whole-farm systems; the life of the living soil; the vital role that cooks can play in inventing cuisines that reflect sustainability and place; the invitation to everyone to think about how what we eat might support a truly resilient agriculture of the future.
But to me, what really stands out in Dan’s writing is the affection that he clearly feels for the farmers he knows, and in turn, the affection that they feel for the places that have given them so much: Glenn Roberts in South Carolina’s Low Country; Klass and Mary-Howell Martens in the Finger Lakes of New York; Eduardo Sousa in the Extremadura region of Spain.
I believe that this kind of affection has the potential to effect real and lasting change in our food system. Dan and the people who inspire him are motivated by a love for place, their craft, their relationships with others in their communities—the very stuff
needed to fuel our drive to protect the land and water and to bring good food to more people in more equitable ways.
Wendell Berry, the poet and writer who so kindly came to the farm last fall for the National Young Farmers Conference, has written frequently and eloquently about the importance of affection—for place, for the land, for one other. “It is in affection that
we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.” In Dan’s book, I begin to see this possibility take shape.
So read the book; eat adventurously; support whole-farm systems; and surround yourself with others who are interested in doing the same.
Originally published on July 21, 2014