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Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Farm’s SM Legacy

Before coming to Phoenix I lived in a place in Western New York called Caneadea. The township of Caneadea is about 36 square miles and only about 3,000 residents lived in that area. There are very few paved roads.  In winter, the ditch was only a blink away and in summer the dust rose up behind your car like a light brown rooster tail. Spring and fall brought rain and ruts and washboards that would jar your bones. This place was rural for real and very quiet.

You can hear a car coming from a mile away. It is common to stop what you are doing and look up to see who is driving by.  You wave and they honk or maybe pull in to say hi. You can hear airplanes over head that you can barely see. In the summer during the day there is always the buzz of flies and mosquitoes. The cicadas will join together to produce a sound so loud you can’t believe it is an insect stuck on a tree. You can hear birds day night. And you neighbor’s rooster reminds you all day long that he is the boss. A dog bark is truly territorial.

Caneadea was named by the Seneca Indians. It means “Where the heavens rest upon the earth.” The township is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  Some mornings when you drive into the Genesee River Valley you drive through a cloud. Here, thunderstorms can engulf you in flashes and crashes that stop your heart. The winds roar through the trees and often in the morning you hear about which neighbor had a lightning strike or you might find a shattered tree on your own property.

When I first moved to the Southside I noticed how quiet it was. It seemed like in the other parts of Phoenix there was always the background sound of cars and trucks. Not the honking, brake-screeching sounds of a big city, but a kind of dull roar. Unlike many cities with narrow winding streets, Phoenix is a place of wide, straight roads. Cars simply drive faster here and that accounts for that distinct tire meets-the-road cacophony. But when I moved to the Southside, there weren’t a lot of four- and five-lane roads. The area was still very agricultural and quiet.

Part of my sales pitch when I was one of the few new-home salespeople in this part of town, was to take people out to a building lot and ask them if they could hear that. They would look at me and say they didn’t hear anything and I would say they were right.

Recently my wife Pat Christofolo purchased The Farm at South Mountain from this area’s longtime visionary, Wayne A. Smith. Wayne has preserved 10 acres near the corner of 32nd Street and Southern Avenue that include a pecan groove, a citrus orchard, a large vegetable garden and a number of buildings, including several homes.  He and my wife over the years have cooperated in the creation of several award-winning restaurants and an amazing wedding venue. Every day hundreds of Valley residents find a few moments of peace and quiet in this urban oasis.

My wife has hired me to help her operate The Farm. She thinks it is my Karma to return to my rural roots, play in the dirt and yell at people for driving on the grass or not having their dogs on a leash. The other reason I will be there is because Pat and I have made a personal pledge to uphold Wayne’s original vision for The Farm while sharing it with far more people than was ever imagined (or intended). We will proceed quietly with honest intent.  And for as long as we are there, the loudest thing anyone will hear is a wedding’s celebration or our old John Deere spreading new wood chips on the lanes.

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