Sunday, December 06, 2015

Halal home, Alabama

The Wall Street Journal of the old days--as in pre-Murdoch era, which was also the pre-9/11 years--used to have wonderful feature articles that typically began in a column above the fold on the front page and then continued on in the inside pages.  It would be about a place or a person or people somewhere, and not always with a business subtext.  In my mind--and I don't think it is my imagination--I even recall Daniel Pearl's columns from back then.

It was those charming essays, that were also well written, and the op-eds, that made me a WSJ subscriber for a few years.  At one time, I was a subscriber to three newspapers: the WSJ, the Los Angeles Times, and the Bakersfield Californian.  After all, those were the very beginnings of the internet years and print ruled.

It is for a similar reason that I continue to subscribe to the Economist.  I love the wide variety of topics that are covered there.  It gets even more exciting and interesting to read the off-beat stories, like this one about a Frank Randle, who is a "farmer-philosopher who confounds expectations about Islam and outsiders in the South."
His clientele expanded to include Muslims throughout southern Alabama and up to Atlanta: professionals and university types from across the Arab world, Africa and South-East Asia. Demand spikes with the births of children and the feast at the end of Ramadan; every year a Malian imam in Tuskegee hand-delivers a religious calendar so Mr Randle can anticipate it.
Who would have imagined that deep down in Alabama is a White American philosopher-farmer who is the go-to-guy for halal mutton!
Some of his customers have become friends. Sitting on his porch—wind-chimes jangling, turkey vultures circling overhead—Mr Randle recalls a banquet on the lawn between his house and the orchard, involving dates, pomegranates and palpitation-inducing shots of coffee, consumed cross-legged and without cutlery. Afterwards his guests prostrated themselves in prayer, he remembers, pointing the way towards Mecca.
This description is way too surreal in contemporary America where beating up on Muslims has become the national favorite past time.  And in the South!
Mr Randle himself has been warned by xenophobes that he is “consorting with the enemy”. “It’s a free country,” he tells them.
Good for him!
Having raised his lambs from birth, Mr Randle isn’t keen to slaughter them himself; in any case, he explains—stooping to return a lost newborn to its mother—state rules forbid him to, though his Muslim guests may do so for their personal consumption. He admires the solemnity and reverence with which they go about it: evidence, he thinks, of a sense of responsibility to the natural world, and of the sanctity of life, which he shares. When employed expertly and painlessly, the halal technique is “the most humane way”, says the farmer-philosopher of Alabama.
After reading that page, I was curious to find out more.  Of course, his business has a web presence.
While we are not certified organic, it is our goal to produce food that we are comfortable serving on our own tables. That means we do not use harmful pesticides on our crops, animal byproducts in our livestock feed, or a program of antibiotics for our livestock. Rather than being certified organic by a government agency, we receive our certification from our customers, who understand how we farm.
We employ sustainable techniques to cultivate a healthy soil, including cover cropping to build organic matter and reduce soil erosion. We use manures for fertilization, rotate crops to reduce disease and pest outbreaks, and control insect pests without damaging beneficial insect populations.
Sounds lovely, right?  And a lovely family picture with the philosopher-farmer sporting a mustache too:

In case you wonder why Randle is not going big time:
After taking in a slice of an old plantation, the farm now encompasses some 230 acres. Mr Randle reckons that is ample: “If you can’t walk over it in a day, you don’t need it.”
People like Randle give me hope. Plenty of hope.

Time to renew the subscription to the Economist!


Ramesh said...

A post full of surprises, outside of the obvious ones.

- "Rather than being certified organic by a government agency, we receive our certification from our customers," . Wow !

- "the halal technique is “the most humane way”" . Really ?

- You subscribed to the WSJ ???? I am gobsmacked

Good that you at least subscribe to the best "newspaper" in the world, for The Economist likes to describe itself as a newspaper. Pity though that all the reading of the finest Queen's English hasn't rubbed off on you.

Sriram Khé said...

The GOP leaders of those years would be considered to be communists by today's Tea Party maniacs. The WSJ of those years used to have the leftist Cockburn as a columnist. Those were times when there were plenty of space everywhere for opposing sides to hear each other. I feel soooooooo old thinking about a mere 20 and 25 years ago!

A White guy in Alabama saying those things about organic farming and halal ... how awesome, right? The US is a fascinating place--which is why you need to ditch the Queen and instead sing "America the beautiful" ;)

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