Kelly King was an amazing woman.
Before brain cancer took her life prematurely, she lived absolutely whole-heartedly...touching so many people with her generous spirit and gifts of knowledge and ideas. She was a strong advocate for a sustainable local food system, volunteering often at NOFA-VT events and serving from 2012-2016 on the Board of the Vermont Farmers Market Association. At her funeral (on September 23rd, 2017 in Jericho, Vermont), her dear friend Chris Sims (who is a supporting member of NOFA Vermont) gave a poignant eulogy that touched on Kelly's loving spirt, and zeal for all things wild and edible.
This is an excerpt from Chris's speech:
Permaculture. There probably isn’t a person in the room who has not heard that word come out of Kelly’s mouth. For those who haven’t, it’s permanent agriculture. The idea is you plant something once and it keeps producing a harvest for years, if not decades or a century. Plant it now and feed your grandchildren. Plant it now, and in some cases you can almost totally ignore it until harvest time. That’s a real plus for a busy family!
Related to that is the practice of foraging. Wild plants tenaciously produce crops and seeds and more crops year after year after year, according to God’s design. Think about the weeds in your garden and you’ll know what I mean. Kelly had the idea that spreading information about food, food systems, and sustainable practices had the potential to save our community in times of trial. If a crash happened, be it from weather, war, politics, economics, or a collapse of transportation infrastructure, the people of Jericho would be able to feed themselves. To help see that happen, she became involved in NOFA, the Community Agricultural Project, Transition Town Jericho, and, most notably, the farmers market.
Kelly King & Ama Hannan at the 2016 NOFA-VT Farmers Market Conference in So. Royalton, VT
Kelly collected knowledge the way some people collect coins, stamps, or Depression glass. The cool thing about collecting knowledge is that when you share your collection with another person, you both walk away with a bigger collection than when you met. So, there we’d be, in a group, perhaps, when Kelly would exclaim, “Score!” and snatch up a large and juicy dandelion leaf. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she’d say, and stuff it in her mouth. She’d go on to explain its nutritional and medicinal benefits, and if no one changed the subject, she’d find even more edible plants growing around our feet and make sure no one left without being able to identify them independently.
Kelly hated to see wild foods go to waste. Uneaten apples lying on the ground or roadsides bothered her. She wasn’t shy about knocking on someone’s door, asking if they were going to use those apples, and if they weren’t, could she have them?
I remember a time I was in the car with Kelly when all of a sudden she screeched to a stop, backed up, pulled over, jumped out, plunged down into the ditch, and scrambled up the other side through brambles and poison ivy to get to a tree. Why? Because that tree had a pheasant-back mushroom growing on it. Happily ignoring her wet shoe, she carved off a slab of the mushroom’s tender edge and brought it back to the car triumphantly. If there’d been a house in view, she would have asked permission, and most likely given the homeowners a natural history lesson in the culinary and medicinal uses of the mushroom in question and encouraged the homeowners to benefit from this boon, themselves, though she did joke sometimes about telling a homeowner she’d just noticed an invasive fungus growing on their lovely tree and would they like her to remove it for them?
As intelligent, talented, and knowledgeable as Kelly was, it seemed to me the most notable thing about her was her faith. Kelly had an actual, genuine relationship—a friendship, a father-daughter thing—with the Creator of the universe. Her faith was solid and sure. A couple of years ago while the choir was rehearsing Soon and Very Soon, Kelly said she wanted everyone at her memorial service to sing that song in celebration all the way from the church to the cemetery, with a jazzy brass band leading the parade. I said, “Kelly, if you think I can sing and celebrate at YOUR funeral, you’re nuts!”
But I understood.
I still don’t know if I can sing and celebrate the way Kelly wants us to or if I’ll just break down and cry. Either way, I do know this: Kelly is not gone. She has just gone on.
As I keep reminding myself, the big picture is beautiful. The narrow view stinks; but the big picture is beautiful.
Kelly's family has included NOFA-VT as one of several organizations to consider if you'd like to make a donation in her memory. If you'd like to do so, you can use this online form, or mail a check to NOFA-VT, PO Box 697, Richmond, VT 05477. Thank you so very much.