Yesterday was a day of heart and soul contentment, engendered by the 7th Annual North Coast Farmers Convergence. I love this event because it holds space for enjoying the company of people who hold shared value around local food production. I am grateful for all the hard work that went into making it happen, especially to North Coast Opportunities, the MendoLake Food Hub, Ridgewood Ranch the School of Adaptive Agriculture and the amazing humans who co-create these organizations. I am grateful for the speakers, the exhibitors and the attendees, and for the sharing of knowledge and information. I am grateful for the amazing food!
A gathering centered around food production is a tapestry made by the weaving of interrelated threads, offering a picture of our local food system. This picture encomapasses the earth tones of the land, and those who tend it. It encompasses the glorious sunburst and the growth of plant and animal life. The picture shows local food purchasers, seed producers, nonprofits and policy organizations. Vibrant threads of communication stand out as iridescent lines that weave the difficulties and victories of the practical aspects of farming, regulation, and policy into a complex and shifting sight which is interpreted through human interaction.
I appreciate the ritual of coming together and the reverence that it inspires. Donna D’Terra opened with a keynote that articulated clear lines of connection between herbal medicine and food production. Beholding a vision of thriving, healthy communities based in strong, local production of food and medicine was a beautiful way to start the day.
The chance to hear from so many amazing and varied perspectives from within our food farming community was a powerful experience. I am glad for the balance I received, from a panel of different farmers, to workshops on different topics during three sessions of breakout groups. I chose to attend a discussion centered around food policy and advocacy, one for season extension and one about how to keep going when it gets tough.
It is difficult to articulate the feeling of connectedness and “like work” that comes from sharing this experience. I am coming to understand on a deeper level the meaning of a guild or profession; a shared “farmerness” and set of goals around food systems work created an element of deep connection. I feel empowered to continue in the journey, and I feel supported and able to offer support.
Mendocino has an incredible local food system, and it is a place where people are learning to work together to build the agriculture that we want to see for the future. We are sharing in lessons and strategies that begin with husbandry of land and animals and continue through the planes of human interaction and systems of government. These interrelated dimensions have much crossover and many pathways of understanding and information. There are as many journeys in these dimensions as there are humans. We are working together to create the society that we want to see, envisioning the path forward one step at a time.
To be in meeting with a community of people who share a life-commitment to building a just and sustainable food system offers a profound feeling of actuation. A deep knowing of “right place, right time” creates a sense of reverence and a joy for the holding of gathering and ceremony. Sharing of food and conversation fosters new connection and strengthens existing ones. The weaving of the tapestry becomes both more defined and more beautiful, an artwork of human culture.
The plane of the natural world and the our interactions with it are the foundation upon which is built the plane of interaction between humans. Human interaction influences and creates the plane of systems, which is inhabited by markets, legislation and regulation. It feels good to take small, measurable strides towards a different form of food system that honors land, animals, farmers and eaters. We imagine the world we want to see, and in doing so breathe life-force energy into the vision.
It is important also to give voice to the difficulties in the journey, sharing the good and the bad in a cathartic process that offers a sense of group therapy, a deep sharing in commonality that soothes the soul. Farming is a struggle, it is difficult and will break everyone at some point. Farming is also such a deep and joyous experience that it becomes fundamental to life; it gets in the blood like oxygen. To be a farmer is to encompass duality, to be worn down and lifted up at the same time. It is a difficult balance to hold, and many farmers suffer from overwork and lack of self-care but will give anything to work the land. It is a calling, and it feels good to share the journey.