Dec. 10 2013
Disclaimer: the views reflected here are those of the farmer and not the organization.
What made you decide to work on a farm that first year?
I had been taking classes on two subjects whose content contrasted; the subjects of religion and spirituality being discussed alongside cultural anthropology, with the latter seeking to dissect peoples, their cosmologies, and their ways of living. When used to focus in the same manner on American culture, anthropology reveals consumerism as the overall religion of worship, regardless of what we as individuals think we believe. There are a few exceptions of peoples such as the Amish, who have not fully submitted to this religion. In the United States, a person may be a Christian, or a person may be a Muslim but most of them drive a car and buy gas, rely on mass manufactured gadgets for daily activities, attain goods and resources at stores, purchase various services for either business, livelihoods, recreation, health, or to assist in living a modern life. Those who cannot work enough to properly consume enough are subject to the worst and minimal of all products, services, and health. I was not sure how much an attempted path of religion could inform or influence one’s life outside our functions as consumers. So I became interested in production, but production that has something to do with life, and that could produce more than just dispensable material goods. Also I felt that if I could be more of a “producer” instead of a “consumer” perhaps I could further chase ideas of religion and witness them outside the structure of our over-stimulating society, because that is where any mysticism originates. Nature is very good at encouraging this kind of thinking, and reason is not. And that’s vegetable farming. Or, in the words of a veteran Hudson Valley New York farmer, “it’s one of the most foolish things you can do with yourself.”
Ted and Jan had a thriving vegetable and flower farm, and are incredibly good humored, grounded, hard working, brilliant people. I loved being outside and being in the elements and using my hands, I liked plants, I liked to eat, everyone has to eat…thought I would give it a try.
When I initially envisioned myself farming, I highly romanticized it. It’s hard not to, we want to believe good things especially as very young people who are trying to find a place in the world. I was thinking self sufficient, sustainable food production. While what I found was more sobering and less dreamy it remains a drama of an attempt to contribute to society while constantly being humbled by nature, and still dangles a mystical carrot in front of me.
Farming is one of the most energy intensive productions on the planet because of carbon dioxide released when the soil is plowed, but more so because of the reliance on fossil fuels for tractors and the many manufactured supplies and tools used to grow and ship food in the competitive free market. I quickly realized that there is a whole farm industry which is relied upon. I thought about this most as I began to drive tractors, repair them and their implements, and became familiar with the various plastics for greenhouses, irrigation, harvest and shipping containers, and so on. I was simultaneously reading Masanobu Fukuoka’s “One Straw Revolution”. Fukuoka dedicated his life to seeking a natural way of farming in Japan (mostly grain and fruit) without fossil fuels or tools from the commercial farming industry. While beautiful and inspiring, for those of us who have not inherited 15 acres of land, live in different climates, and have to scratch out our own little niche in a marketplace that already offers everything anyone wants, we have to beg the question how? I do wish I could have met him, and shared a piece of his dream. Fukuoka was looking for nature and sought to stand by the side of God, but conceded “The noble road that rises above the world of relativity was too steep for me.” And it may be for any one person, yet the romance that remains comes from our collective struggle with this question; are there truly sustainable ways to grow real food on appropriate scales, that align themselves more with nature than with the forces that are destroying it? For those of us who do not have immediate access to more sustainable means of farming, it is the tragedy of putting your foot on a tractor and dipping your hands in the industrial world, coupled with the hope of doing it better next year and making innovations along the way. It’s the best we can do.