By Colleen Goodhue
On a late August evening, I parked my car in a field of high grass. The sounds of a band warming up beckoned me. A sign pointed the way through a patch of trees where children played hide-and-seek in the waning light. A young woman collected sliding scale donations in a white paint bucket. The donations were for the evening’s musical act, Kalbells from New York City. They performed dreamy rock-pop on a small stage lit with paper lanterns. The audience was spread wide; dancing in front of the stage, eating black bean tacos at picnic tables, deep in conversation around the campfire, or wandering through rows of vegetable plants high on a nearby hill.
Feast and Field began as a CSA pick-up more than a decade ago. It became a weekly gathering with music and pizza that grew too big for the center of town. It moved out to the 500-acre historic Clark Farm in Barnard, Vermont. Every Thursday from the end of May to the end of September, this place becomes a magical space for music, art, food, and people.
"It’s a place for earthlings to gather, celebrating local food grown on the land,” Christopher Piana said. Christopher is a farmer from Fable Farm, one of four area farms, including Eastman Farm, Kiss the Cow Farm, and Heartwood Farm, that collaborate to host the event. Every week the farmers prepare dishes made from seasonal food cultivated on the land. Piana describes it as peasant food, simple food; chorizo, polenta, taco salad, farmer saag (spinach and caramelized onions served with flatbread and yogurt.)
Feast and Field also collaborates with BarnArts’ Chloe Powell to book musicians both from the area and around the world. This summer they’ve had Haitian roots music, Irish bluegrass, Quebecois folk tunes, and local acts like Bow Thayer and Strangled Darlings. This September they’ll have rock and roll band Moxley Union and an end-of-season open mic hosted by Trifolium. In the evenings after the show, local musicians stick around and sing songs around the campfire.
Piana and I shared a picnic table and talked about how he got into farming as a way to put his beliefs into practice through his way of living. He found healing by putting his hands to the soil and building community. Piana spoke about wanting to create “a living art where folks can interact and have a rich experience and eat organic food together in an idyllic setting where you could bring art and food together in the same umbrella, in gathering community.” He thinks Feast and Field has been so successful because the people have an itch for it, they want these kinds of experiences that are often so rare.
I felt a sense of ease at Feast and Field. Despite how many people were there, it didn’t feel crowded. Like we could breathe in each other’s company and enjoy an evening out on the land together, savoring the fruits of the farmers’ labor.
I sipped a glass of organic wine from Fable Farm, which is just across the street. They host wine tastings there on the weekends. “We need all these agrarian crafts everywhere,” Piana said. “Find something that you can produce for your consumption, whether that’s baking your bread, knitting your clothes, growing your herbs, whatever it is, if you can have a direct connection to something you consume or use, that’s a step in the right direction. Right?”
As the sun dipped below the horizon, children joined the band on stage. They held hands and started a dance party.
Colleen Goodhue is a videomaker and writer living in West Lebanon, NH. She loves archives, long layovers, and all kinds of friendly competition. She performs with Valley Improv, the Upper Valley’s best and only improv troupe.