Jim Guinness, who passed away February 15th from an aggressive brain tumor, was one of those cherished sharers who would take the food home each week and make magic with it. He’d tell us of his combining and sautéing, chopping and steaming, adding sauces and dips he made from the selections in the Herb Garden. He loved to experiment and he was good at it. I always looked forward to his contribution to our potluck events.
On pickup days he would stroll out to the fields to pick his greens and chat along the way, open faced and interested. To him, Stearns Farm was his community and he participated in it fully over the 12 plus years he was a sharer.
Over the dozen years that I farmed Stearns Farm, Jim was front and center every time I gave a tour of the fields. He always wanted to know – asking questions – from growing practices to food combinations to the politics of farming. He was hungry for all there was to digest, way beyond the crops we grew.
He added music and therefore beauty to many of our spring and fall festivals, playing one of his flutes or saxophone for our Maypole dances in the spring. He even accompanied my accordion playing. When we staged a mock wedding for our farm assistant Kerisa Fitzgerald, he played the sax as she walked down the aisle, under a pitchfork and shovel canopy. He was up for anything.
But his specialty and love was Stone Soup, our combination soup that simmered on a hotplate all morning and fed all of us hungry field workers at noon. During his summer break from teaching math, he would come once a week and make soup for us all. What a treat! Each fall he would make up pots of soup for a feast when we hosted a tour of our farm for other growers in the region.
When we would ask for help, he’d show up with enthusiasm and do what was needed. Once, through the coordination of Esther Heimburg, he helped harvest lettuce for the food bank, even getting his picture in the Metrowest News.
Each year we honored a sharer whose contributions to the farm community was stellar. We called it The Mostly Valuable Person Award. Jim was our choice in 2006. That year, wanting to be helpful and do his part for our community, he asked what was needed. What an answer we gave him! That farm season he was in charge of the composting toilet. I’ll bet you didn’t know that. It isn’t a well publicized job but it’s a necessary one. Each week he made sure it was clean and composting following the instructions of Tom Yelton, who appreciated a year off from that task. Jim was recognized as one of the select few authorized to turn the crank on the composting toilet.
But that’s not the only reason he got the award. He got it because he lived his commitment to the Stearns Farm community. He was gentle, inquisitive and caring, noticing and appreciating the efforts we made to provide added beauty and peace to our farm along with the vegetables.
Jim has our gratitude for setting such a full and inspiring example of how to be a participating member of Stearns Farm. He will be remembered for being so generous with his gifts to all of us. If you would like to acknowledge him, Susan Douglass, his wife, has suggested making a contribution to Stearns Farm in his memory.