As the season marches into spring, I reflect on this newest trip around the sun. We are learning to be better farmers with each journey, and as always, hope springs eternal. I am excited by growing plants; the daffodils and crocuses have begun to flower; spring is on the horizon.
Though we have had very little winter, I am excited for the return of the sun. This is always the case, the lengthening days filling me with joy and motivation. I am ready to begin prepping garden beds and planting crops. Amber has been sowing trays in the seed-starting hoophouse, and this process will ramp up over the weeks to come.
We start all of our crops from seed, including the cannabis varietals that we have saved and selected over time. Cannabis reproductive processes share certain characteristics with humans; one male and one female make offspring. The children will range along the full spectrum of gender, with varying characteristics, some more like one of the parents than the other and with an occasional outlier that looks like neither.
We enjoy the process of acquainting ourselves with a new generation of progeny from our favorite plants. It’s a combination of meeting an old friend and forming a bond with a new one that is both fresh and a trip down memory lane. There is a sweetness that is held in the memory of the farmer, the sum of the experience of farming.
Growing a crop creates a contract and a bond between the farmer and that which is tended. The connection is interdependent, each reliant on the other as a source of support. The plant is changed over successive generations of breeding, given new properties and thus new meaning over the course of time. The farmer derives meaning from the crop, being defined and governed by the cycle of its life. That which is cultivated comes to define the cultivator, in an elegant dance that becomes more refined as the seasons wear on.
It is a joy to learn to become a better farmer; to seek out knowledge and gain new practices. Like honing a blade, the craft becomes ever finer as the journey moves around the sun. Accentuating the seasons, the search for knowledge quickens in the winter, and is then applied during the months of long days and bright sunshine.
To live the life of the farmer is to never stop learning; the most successful farmers are often highly adaptable and seek out new information and knowledge, even at the expense of having to admit fault or change a system of belief. There are many things that I have learned to avoid over the years; farming can be as much about what NOT to do as it is about what TO do. Being able to recognize new methodologies is important for farming, never more so than in our current time of great change and upheaval.
It is important that we humans look to the land, and begin a journey back towards the cycles that define life on this planet. We need more opportunities to be in touch with the sources of our food; nourishment is the life-force that drives us.
Access to fresh, quality food should be a universal human right. One of the basic goals of all human government should be to make sure that everyone has good food to eat. We need to do more to get good, quality foods to people who may not be able to afford them.
Food Stamp benefits have been able to be used at our local Farmers Market through grant programs which serve to double the purchasing power by issuing $2 in farmers market tokens for $1 in food stamps. This gives low-income families access to fresh, high-quality foods and provides a direct economic stimulus to small farms (and thus to the communities in which they are located). Dollar for dollar, this is the most effective government program I have ever seen; it should be available all over the country.
Proposals to cut food assistance should be met with stiff resistance. It should be the actuated goal of society to ensure that all people have access to good food. It should also be the duty of farmers to see that they are producing quality food that helps people to thrive. In a world dominated by large agribusiness, we need a return to food that is produced because it is good, not because it is cheap.
It is time for the United States to reconsider the things on which we spend our money. We need to spend more on tools that support small farms and help to provide meaningful employment for larger segments of the population. It is important that we utilize the labor-saving opportunities provided by modern technology, but it is of equal import that we keep farming humanized.
It is hard work to be a farmer, but it is also a life that has many pleasures. To be connected with the seasons as they rotate through the changes in the landscape is to experience a continuous cycle of “coming home” or of “meeting an old friend”. The sensuousness of the shift is glorified in the exploding flavor of the summer watermelon, the crisp crunch of spring greens.
I believe in a future of small farms, worked by happy people who tend healthy crops and raise thriving animals. I believe in a regenerative agriculture that can heal the landscape and those who tend to her. I believe in a future in which governments are designed to provide opportunity for all to achieve full actuation by being nourished in mind, body and spirit.
We all have much to learn, and we are a long way from living in a world that is just and free. There is much work to be done, and it is time to take up the task in whatever ways are available to us. Small steps, consistently taken, create great change in the world.