Week 5, 2021｜Kristin Kimball ｜February 5, 2021
Mark’s father, Dan Guenther, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday night at his family home in New Paltz. He was 77. The nor’easter was blowing, he was shoveling snow, and his heart stopped. When Mark told Dan’s old friend Larry, Larry, said, a little frustrated, “I gave him a snowblower last year!” The fact that Dan had a snowblower and was shoveling by hand instead surprised exactly none of us. A fast, fossil-fuel-free exit is exactly what Dan would have ordered.
Dan was the reason Mark and I met, and without him Essex Farm — and so many other farms — would never have come to be. Dan grew up in New York City, and spent summers with his close extended family in New Paltz. The seeds for his future were planted by his grandfather, who taught him and his cousins to garden. Dan had two careers before farming. First, he was a civil engineer, working on skyscrapers in Manhattan; then, after he married Ann, left the city, and began homesteading, he worked for twenty-five years as a builder while raising Mark and his sister Linda-Brook. He started farming at age 50, driven by twin beliefs: that organic farming was the best way he knew to move the world in a better direction, and that he could probably do it better than everyone else. He started Phillies Bridge Farm, then the Poughkeepsie Farm Project at Vassar College, then the Brook Farm Project, all still in production. Dan was a dogged worker and had high expectations for himself and everyone around him. His zeal and evangelical energy could either break or inspire. For the inspired, he was life changing. Each of his farms launched the careers of several of his farm apprentices who are farming to this day.
Meanwhile, Dan lived his conviction in all parts of his life. He and Ann continually organized, marched, spoke and made art about our collective responsibility to care for the environment and do what we can to stop climate change. He believed that community action was the path to positive change, and Dan looked for any stage or audience to get the message out, to find people who would listen and act. Just now, Mark sent me a picture from the house in New Paltz of a board game Dan was creating, laid out in his engineer’s blocky print. The numbers represent the load of carbon in the atmosphere; one path leads to the Circle of Hope, and the other, the Circle of Doom. You make your choices in this game, and live with the consequences, nothing in between. Sometimes, for those closest to him, his passion could be maddening, but there’s no doubt he achieved his goal, and nudged the world in a better direction. I’m so grateful to Dan not only for creating and raising my husband but for the work he did in this life, and for what he leaves behind.
We got through the deep cold, and the blowing snow, and are enjoying a brief window of mild weather before more cold descends. Thanks to all the farmers for keeping things going smoothly while Mark is away spending time with his mother and sister. Our favorite meal this week was peanut butter soup, which warmed and filled us during the storm. You can google up recipes like this one and modify, as I did, subbing potatoes for the sweet potatoes, using the stock I had on hand and leaving out chicken. We don’t produce peanuts, nor the spices, but everything else is adaptable from the share. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this emotional 5th week of 2021. Find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, on the web or on insta at essexfarmcsa, kristinxkimball, and farmerkimball.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball