Sunday, November 6, 2016

In Memorium

I've been feeling out of sorts for a few days now. I realized why when my eyes started tearing up at the farmers market this morning: I would never again see my friend Tom.

Tom Hubric, retired commercial airline pilot, free-range egg farmer, mentor, activist, and insatiable jokester, has been my friend for nearly a decade. He was raising happy hens on Maryland's Eastern Shore before I had ever even heard of free-range eggs, and was one of the original farmers selling at the now prestigious Dupont market. When I started shopping for eggs at the Waterview Foods stand -- gosh, 10 years ago? -- I remember Tom smiling no matter the weather, telling me silly jokes -- sometimes the same joke for three weeks in a row, but I always looked forward to it. We became friends, and during our market chats and periodic phone calls I learned not only more jokes but also about the changing agricultural landscape and policies in Maryland and DC, about the rewards and challenges of raising chickens outdoors, and different ways to enjoy chicken and duck eggs.

After returning from my round-the-country bike trip in 2010, I began to learn more about Tom's work, including his mentoring of Ned and Eileen, a pair of egg farmers transitioning from a conventional to a free-range operation not far from his place in Nanticoke. After a series of calls and follow-up emails, my friend Jeff and I ventured out to the farms to photograph Tom and his protégés for a feature article in  the sustainable farming journal, Acres, USA. When the print issue came out, I'm not sure who was more proud of the other, Tom or me! He continued to encourage me to write, and despite his declining health in recent years remained a mainstay at the market and a thoughtful friend. In recent weeks, his mentee Ned has been helping at the market stand, and today it was only Ned selling eggs....

Tom died this past Thursday, after a multi year battle with cancer. I know his memory will live on within many of us that he has fed -- both intellectually and literally -- during his lifetime. Still, I will miss our chats terribly.

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