Thomas Lawrence Toscano
The Way Things Can Still Be...
Changing one's geographical reality is often times a joyous event. The new vibrations allowing for a creatively fertile perspective can be deeply supportive and exciting. That, of course, is not to say that one will not remember with nostalgia favorite places and friends.
This reality coincides at Shaftsbury's welcoming Farmstand/Organic Farm pictured above - Clearbrook Farm. To arrive there on weekends, is to be amongst the throngs of residents and visitors to this area of Vermont. To be there during the week, brings out more of the locals but, don't be fooled visitors seem to always find their way into this extremely magical place.
The picture above shows you the fruit reality which greets you as you arrive up the wooden steps which were a previous obstacle while recovering from hip surgery, and now are my great delight. What is so special to me about buying here is not only the directness of the layout but the obvious work stations within view where bunches of leafy vegetables of all kinds are washed, bunched and put on display for you to purchase. Not only that, but, the intelligence of production just lit me up. Italian onions and tomatoes and pepper in shapes and colors that I have only seen on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, or, in Sicilia and Milano of course. Hot peppers from Hungarian, Italian Cherry and Ghost have their own section and of course, there are olive oils, vinegars and many other surprises. For a farm stand, it's extremely well thought out. And!, I haven't even mentioned the dairy, meat and eggs section.
There's no hype here. Stand still for 5 minutes and watch the reality of farming all around you. The fresh produce is, in the majority, grown on the very land you're standing on - and if it isn't the requisite identification of origin is in place. I say requisite for again, there's no hype here. Neither in the produce nor in the people.
From beginning of the season...
To the late fall, the authenticity of production is apparent at every turn.
To say that I am very sensitive to such things would be an understatement. Early in my existence, my dear grandfather Gaetano Toscano, not only schooled me in planting a garden and flowers, but regaled me with stories of the land where his father was an overseer. The local Cavalieri ( Knight) in Sicily - sadly I do not remember his name - had an estate that was enormous. My grandfather told a story of how at a young age he was entrusted to travel 2 or 3 stops by train to one of the vineyard barns. Therein were casks of wine. His task was to meet an elderly gentleman who arrived with a donkey. Upon the donkey there were 2 casks. My grandfather was instructed that the old man could drink all he wanted, yet, he was limited to filling only the two casks. After seeing to his duty, he returned to the train stop, was picked up and brought back the 2 or 3 stops to where he had began. For his stories and his delight in spinning them for me and my lifelong love relationship with plants and their cultivation I am deeply connected to it all. So, when I say that something is authentic, it is the highest praise I can possibly utter.
During my time at the local radio station, I had the privilege of interviewing many who were running for office. I spent an hour on three different occasions speaking with Brad who was challenging incumbent Bernie Sanders for his Senate seat. Both on and off the air I had a blast. And through the three conversations I found myself in front of a genuinely knowledgeable candidate who was not full of pomp and ego but, thoughtful, deliberate and willing to demonstrate both what he knew and what he could learn from others. An excellent listener, there was no subject which was off limits and further, through it all, was an authenticity that too many of us have believed is a thing of the past. Our image of Lincoln contains this vision, this supposed fantasy, but here in this young man - the energy of the farm, the nobility of our land expressed in its highest form through the cultivation of food to feed the community, was and is, always evident.
There isn't anything pedestrian about Brad, nothing crass, nothing belligerent and everything common. I say common in reference to Copland's great work - Fanfare for the Common Man.
This work, with it's mountainous and tectonic majesty combined with its altruistic purpose, came out of a commission to answer the call to war with new fanfares at each performance during the 1942-1943 concert season. A similar practice had been established during WWI where British composers were set to this task. For WWII the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens decided to engage American composers to create "stirring and significant contributions to the war effort". The only fanfare that remains in our orchestral repertoire is the soul awakening Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man". I had the great privilege of conducting this great work during my 1977 appearance with the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in Caracas.
Now, to indicate just how all inclusive Brad's vision is, this summer, at a delightful lunchtime period we spent on the porch of the Farm Stand, he turned to me as we conversed and said "you know, YOU should run for office!". I laughed wryly and allowed my Bronxness to respond - "yeah, just me, Mr. Popular!". We laughed, but he was serious, as was I. At another point in the conversation he declared that the best candidates are those who know hardship, true hardship and I completely agree with him.
I have a dream and it's' simple. I want to see our next Governor come from Shaftsbury, be part of the land, have the courage to speak his mind and stay the course no matter the obstacles. I want that Governor to have that Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Gary Cooper, Sargent York, unwavering integrity of beneficent perception which is the apex of all possible views. One based on the simplicity of planting, nurturing and harvesting programs, initiatives and policies that can and will truly serve all. And, I want to political addicts, sick from years of this horrible affliction, to get out of the way and allow appropriately inspired actions to help us all.
It's a very serious decision to make and I'm sure that I'm not the only one who considers him a good candidate. It would, of course, be a great and deserved accomplishment if he ran and won. However, it would be an even more important gain for all Vermont citizens, for he would not be the fashion of the day, the first this or that, but, a simple, down to earth reality. The best being for the job.
I can honestly say that I left Bennington County out of practical necessity and indications that I received from my journey's navigator. During my four years and 10 months there, I was blessed with some wonderful friends and their enormous generosity. I countered all of it by giving an enormous amount of myself. As I did, I learned just what a community minded person I truly am and what an enormous capacity I had for work, under all circumstances. As the very end of September approached life informed me that it was time to be somewhere else.
Yet the future, in my estimation, is quite bright. Just consider the abundant cornucopia that is Clear Brook Farm, it's example which is echoed in so many wonderful farming realities in that historically fertile county. Consider further the human resource embodied in the likes of a Brad Peacock and others, who as of yet have not found their way to aspire for public office. As one gets to know Brad, one can readily appreciate his qualities and mark my words, his potential will astound us all if the electorate is wise enough to allow it to be fully tapped.
Meanwhile, I am quite certain that he will continue to foster that community nourishing both body and soul. All of this allows me to leave, with great hope for the future of that wonderful part of the state. I deeply loved moving to Southwestern Vermont, it allowed me to give, grow and heal. I will carry those emotions with me where ever else I settle in Vermont - it's such a glorious place to live.
Thank you all for being with me. Thomas