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Column: An ode to fellow farmers Rick and Duffy

I have heard many wonderful things about both Rick and Duffy, since their deaths in a tragic accident in late January. What I have heard does not feel complete to me and, knowing how full their lives were, I feel a great need to add my thoughts and knowledge of these wonderful folks.

I was unable to speak at the gathering held in their memory at the Town House due to my own denial; I was still waiting to be sitting in Aesop’s enjoying my cappuccino and have Duffy bustle in with her papers and the latest town gossip.

Duffy was a member of the Peterborough Agricultural Commission of which I am the chair. She was active in the startup and one of the first members. Admittedly, many of us would groan inwardly at her stacks of papers at each meeting, but there was no denying her support for anything agriculture. Her combined knowledge from the Heritage Commission and town workings were extremely helpful. She also had many wonderful tales.

At one meeting I remember her talking about stuffing her car full of sheep to take them to market and how she convinced Rick to go along with it. Rick always told me that Duffy was the farmer and he was just a willing participant. At our last meeting we had been working on doing some educational dinners and Duffy had graciously offered the barn at Four Winds Farm for our first dinner on May 22.

The family has agreed to let us still do it there, so stay tuned for more information next month. They had some sheep and many old apple trees they were working with, along with planting new apples and pears of heritage varieties.

Both Rick and Duffy were also active Slow Food members and Duffy would always insist on using real plates, knives, forks and napkins at each event, and she would promise to wash them herself. I remember her at our Dinner With the Cows Slow Food Event on her knees with buckets of water and dirty dishes washing them right in the field with the cows grazing behind her.

They invited us to dinner one night and, in the interest of local and slow, Duffy had picked “some” red berries and made them into a pie for dessert. When we arrived she was going through all of her plant identification books to try and determine just what kind of berries they were and if they were edible or poisonous. Even as she was cutting up the pie and serving it to us she still had not verified what they were and said “I don’t think they are poisonous!” In the meantime, Rick was telling us you do not have to eat this. But feeling that well there it is served up and ready, Dan, Rick and I all took a bite. It was horrible tasting, yet none of us were killed by it.

She and Rick were also working on my husband, Dan, and I to add our animals to the Four Winds fields. In fact just last fall we had worked out a plan with them to start fencing more fields and do just that. After speaking with the family and with their blessing, we are going forward with this and I know it would make them both extremely happy.

But I also know that my denial will kick in full force and I will be waiting to see them come walking down their driveway smiling and telling us that they would be happy to water the animals.

Ruth Holmes is one of the principal farmers at Sunnyfield Farm, a nonprofit community farm in Peterborough.

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