I’m so lucky and grateful to be in the band for the Family Folk Machine, a community folk choir based in Iowa City. The Family Folk Machine was founded by and continues to be directed by my friend Jean Littlejohn. Jean is an incredibly talented musician as well as a very warm and kind person and she is exactly the right person to be piloting this beautiful machine. My husband Joe and our son Atticus sing in the choir and Atticus will also be playing his shiny red accordion. He calls it Red 3000 because he thinks it looks like a robot when he stands it on its little accordion feet. But I digress.
Our theme for this concert is “Blooming Where You’re Planted” and this Sunday, April 19 at 3 pm at the Iowa City Senior Center, we will present the last in this short series of concerts. For the sake of your heart and your soul, I urge you to attend. The concert is free and we will be collecting canned food donations for the Crisis Center.
In Jean’s own words (originally printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen):
The Family Folk Machine will present its spring program, “Blooming Where You’re Planted: Songs from Farm to Table,” …At 3 p.m. April 19, we will perform on our home turf at the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center in downtown Iowa City with special guests from Table to Table and Local Foods Connection. At this concert, we’ll be collecting canned food donations for the Crisis Center.
You might be surprised to discover how many great songs there are about vegetables. Some gardeners sing “Inch by inch, row by row…” to themselves every spring (but do they know the Anti-Garden Song?), and they might relate to the obsessive vegetablephilia of the songs “Greens” and “Homegrown Tomatoes.” Once you know the Metamora song “Little Potato,” it will come to mind every time you are planting or digging spuds. Greg Brown’s “Canned Goods” brings out the poetry in food preservation: “Taste a little of the summer: Grandma’s put it all in jars.”
The stage for these songs about vegetables is set with others about spring and farming, including the Dreyer Family’s “How to be happy”: “Can you believe the grass just grows? Sun and rain, the earth it just knows … Never stop being amazed.” One of the Folk Machine kids informed me that he doesn’t need instructions on how to be happy — he’s always happy. We sing, “Can you believe that this child of mine has brightened the colors of my life?”
Farming is being reborn in Iowa and across our country, and the classic Buffy Sainte-Marie song “Men of the Fields” is an homage to farming as sacred work that rings as true today as it did in the 1960s. The Rebecca Riots song “Gardener” speaks to the cultivation of our inner gardens, and Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee” addresses issues of migrant farm work and industrial agriculture, reverberating with current concerns about the separation of families through deportation policies and the lack of dignity afforded to people facing deportation.
The young people of the Family Folk Machine have re-written the traditional song “When I first came to this land” from a kid’s perspective. It has become “When I first dropped off the grid, I was not a happy kid,” and they go on to sing about the various problems they encounter trying to set up their new life in the wilderness. The kids have also enjoyed learning the classic Sesame Street song “Captain Vegetable,” in which “Andy” and “Betty” are encouraged to improve their eating habits by a strange new superhero.
After all these food-related songs, we remind ourselves that “Everything that comes from plants deserves to have a second chance” and sing about composting in the Tom Chapin song “Brown Gold.” Please join us!
All food donations will be gratefully accepted but the top 10 list of most needed donations are:
1. Financial donations
2. Canned fruit and 100% fruit juice
3. Peanut butter and canned meat
4. Pasta and rice
5. Hearty soups and stews
6. Canned vegetables
7. Toilet paper
8. Baby formula
9. Baby diapers
10. Laundry detergent