The Apple Farm is a working farm with a focus on education in Philo, California. A group of Anderson Valley Eat Retreaters observed Sophia Bates and Brittany Davis as they slaughtered lambs raised on the farm for an upcoming feast. Eat Retreat alumni Mirit Cohen shares her reflections on the experience.
I’ve always felt a strong connection to nature and have never been surprised to learn about the hard realities behind animal behavior, husbandry, life or death. Awed, surely, but not surprised. I find it sad that as a society we are so far removed from the source of our food that people eat meat with a “see-no-evil, hear-no-evil” mentality, blissfully (or willfully) ignorant of how that meat arrived on their plate. So, I advocate for this information being more widely disseminated. For instance, I don’t believe in hiding these truths from children. I also don’t believe I’ve had enough experience with slaughter or butchery myself. So I considered it a goal-met when I was able to witness, learn and perform chicken butchery with Heather Marold Thomason at Eat Retreat Los Altos Hills. That experience stuck with me and I chose to attend the lamb butchery at Eat Retreat Anderson Valley.
Set in an impeccably-maintained barn overlooking mountains, a pond and trees, the lambs were slaughtered with respect and precision by Sophia and Brittany. Before the slaughter Sophia gave us a talk about the farm’s approach to lamb husbandry and the industry in general, during which we all got to ask questions and take some courage-swigs from Mario’s handy bottle of whiskey. Watching this relatively large mammal be slaughtered felt a little different than my prior experience with the chickens, mainly because it was a closer link to my own mortality. I had been feeling this keenly after having given birth to my first child just four months earlier, another awe-inspiring life and death experience. At the end there was a bright red pile of wood chips under the hanging carcass, near a bucket of offal, another of guts, and the perfectly preserved hide. I left with greater resolve to take care when purchasing meat to consume, mindful of the choices made in getting there.