That Small Town Feeling


One of the owners of the hotel likes to say that Sacramento is a two phone call town. It’s true—one of the things I like about Sacramento is that it’s a big city that feels like a small town. If you want to meet someone, you probably already know someone else who can connect you. If you want to avoid someone, good luck. But nothing feels more like a small town than an actual small town.

Lincoln used to be small. A photo in one of my high school yearbooks of the city limits sign says the population was 6,500 at the time—the current sign says its 41,100. I still expect that when I meet someone who lives there that we should know all the same people, and I’m always disappointed when we don’t. But this week, I was reminded just how small our rural community, and Sacramento, really is.

On Saturday evening, after we spent a breezy day moving 1,500 pounds of compost to fill the new raised beds in the vegetable garden, the 80-year-old barn across the dirt road from our farm caught on fire. Seven fire trucks, every neighbor and a few hours later, the barn was a total loss. Luckily, the fire didn’t spread beyond the one building—which is a small miracle with all of the dry grass surrounding it—and nobody was hurt.

The structure was an old dairy barn—built with rice hulls for insulation. The original owner, who I always knew growing up as Mr. Penman, worked a full-time job in town and milked cows before and after work each day in that barn—similar to what my family is doing today, but much, much more labor intensive. The Penmans raised their family on that farm and some of their children still live there today.

The day after the fire, the entire neighborhood went into fire suppression mode. On each property in the area, including our own, lawn mowers and weed eaters were all busy destroying what was left of the spring weeds before another fire might do the same to anyone else.

After returning home, exhausted from another long workday, I skimmed my Facebook feed to see what was happening in the world. I noticed a photo, posted by a professional colleague of mine, of his family’s dairy barn on their farm that had burned down the night before. I suddenly put two and two together and realized this was the same barn and that his grandparents, The Penmans, had owned on the property next door to our farm for all of these years! As it turns out, a friend from my work in the city is actually a neighbor from the country—and my little town became small all over again.

Amy Dempster is on sabbatical from her job as director of sales at The Citizen Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Hotel. You can find more information about her work at The Lamm Farm here.