Thursday, October 17, 2013

Do You Believe in Magic?

"Love One Another."

You know you've met a special person when you see a plaque with these words hanging over the doorway of their home.

The plaque belongs to Ryan Goldsmith, our Leucadia neighbor. He told me it was signed by his relatives and placed over his baby crib.

Whoa. Is this proof that magic comes from magic, or what? Anyone starting life that way is bound to be an amazing soul. Indeed, Ryan is one of those people it just feels good to be around. Clearly, I'm not the only one who feels this way. People flock to Ryan like monarch butterflies to eucalyptus.

Ryan--also known as Farmer Leo--runs and lives on a small urban farm. He converted less than an acre of land at the end of the block into an organic paradise chockful of veggies, flowers, honeybees and chickens.

busy bees

What used to be an unused dirt lot is now a community gathering spot. People come day and night to get their hands in the soil, to water seedlings, to buy the weekly assorted veggie box, and to just hang out in the aura that is Farmer Leo's. And every few weeks, he teams up with local chefs to provide a farm-to-table dinner.

When I talked to Ryan yesterday, he made some intriguing points about food. He said those of us in industrialized nations are unusual because--unlike 99% of the world--we don't know where our food comes from. It's produced far away and shipped to stores. But someone somewhere, planted, watered, picked, fed, slaughtered and packaged our food.

Like his hero Martin Luther King Jr., Ryan has a dream: That one day people will look back and be puzzled by the time when food production depended on fossil fuels and chemicals. He believes anyone can do what he's doing. He believes every community could have a garden every four or five blocks. He believes that change is afoot, and he's living in the heart of that change.

For Ryan, food is more than food. It's a vital part of community. It's about being empowered. It's about being connected to the planet and to each other.

It's as though farming and celebration of community are one in the same in Ryan's world. I was lucky enough to be part of a beautiful manifestation of this notion when Dave and I attended Farmer Leo's Harvest Festival. People flocked from all over to enjoy food, live music, face painting and pumpkin decorating. (The festival also served as a fund raiser for  WWOOF-USA [Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms], which Ryan founded.)

Holding Ava's braids at the Harvest Festival.

When I asked Ryan if he's happy, he said calmly and unequivocally "yes." When I asked why, he said with a smile, "What's the alternative?"

He added that, like everyone, he's endured difficult times. In his early twenties he experienced a horrific car accident. And later, his father had a debilitating stroke. But Ryan focused on how these difficulties led to something good. After the accident, he realized how tenuous life is, which helped him focus on his purpose. And his father's health challenges have brought father and son closer.

"Things flow in a positive way unless I put roadblocks up," he said. That's definitely the vibe I feel around Ryan--that he believes in, and cultivates, goodness.

When Dave and I drive away from Leucadia tomorrow, we will take with us the magic of Farmer Leo's. And bigger hearts for having met Ryan.