Sowing

On this day, and in this season, we celebrate symbols of fertility, like rabbits and eggs, and symbols of the resilience of life, like buds, blossoms, blooms and an empty tomb.

These reminders of the natural cycle of life following death are beautiful things.

This is the season of the seed. Within a seed there is the miraculous potential for new life.  But unless it’s planted, the seed stays dead.

So we sow.  Sometimes seed falls on good soil and it grows.  Sometimes seed falls on rocky soil and though it may germinate, it won’t grow.

This morning I’m wondering whether the seeds we’re sowing have landed on good soil.

There are only a few of us in this area trying to change the food system and trying to provide our community with food that is chemical-free and sustainably grown. For those farms, the signs are not good.  One farm has to take their produce 2 1/2 hours away to find people who will buy it.  Another farmer told me that 95% of their sales are outside of this area.  They’re struggling to survive and will quit if this year doesn’t bring significant improvement.  Another farmer has abandoned our area and now drives an hour north of here to go a farmer’s market where enough people care about food quality to make it worth his while.  And I’ve just heard that now he’s been threatened with an $11,000 fine for using the word “organic” to describe his produce, without having the official government certification.

And then there’s us.  We’re grateful to the few families who have chosen to get their food from us. They’ve made good locally-sourced food a priority for their families.  But there are only a few of them.  Very few, and that can be discouraging.

Last weekend Cherie manned a table at an autism awareness event in town.  Someone who recently moved here from Seattle commented that while it was really easy to find local, organic food in Seattle, she was finding it next to impossible here, despite the fact that we’re a rural agricultural-based community and Seattle is not.  Unsurprisingly, we live in the unhealthiest part of the state.

I’m learning that it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to convince people to change their diets by reasoning. For the most part, it’s something people must come to on their own. And ultimately, no matter how well we do everything else, the perception of “convenience” is what will drive most food purchases.  Relatively speaking, supporting local farmers is not “convenient.”

Maybe our seeds will yet take root and grow.  Or maybe they’ll get choked out by the weeds.

Should that happen, I’m confident that someone else will come along and try again.  There will be a harvest someday.

Advertisements

15 comments on “Sowing

  1. I admire your effort and tenacity as I well know the mindset you encounter everyday. The distance between where you are and where you wish to go is disheartening for sure. I should say “we” because you are not alone. Everywhere people have modest means, disregard for health, and an overwhelming instinct for convenience. I see it everyday.

    But it’s Easter, Bill. I’ve got lots of peas in and my garlic thrives. And you’ve got how many baby goats? May new thinking resurrect across all lands.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      You’re right, of course, and this really isn’t the right day to be complaining. The sun is out and things that had seemed dead are now exploding with life. It’s all good.

      I’m very much a long-term optimist.

      Like

  2. Jeff says:

    All you can do is do what you do. I see signs that people across the country are waking up to the fact that America is ruled by oligarchs who care only for profit and not for people, but it takes a long, long time for enough people to connect the dots and begin to demand change. It is an uneven process and southside VA is not a hotbed of independent thinking. Don’t give up, but do recognize that you don’t live in an area where people think and ask questions. Cultivate those whose eyes have started to open and ignore those who don’t. And keep on keepin’ on, as the saying from the 60s went.

    Like

    • Jeff, oligarchs? Good one. I had to look that one up but it sure fits our situation for this country today.

      Like

    • Bill says:

      A new way of thinking is emerging. I saw Charles Eisenstein speak last week and he talked about us living in the time between two stories. The story we live in shapes how we see things and the process of change will not be immediate and won’t look the same for everybody. I like your suggestion to “cultivate those whose eyes have started to open.” Those people do exist here and it isn’t easy to swim against the stream. They deserve a lot of credit for doing it. Maybe we should focus on homesteading and cultivating that lifestyle option. Time will sort it out and in the long run I’m confident the things that are good and worthy will replace those that are not.

      Like

  3. I walked away to think about how to abridge my comment and by the time I came back you’d done that for me in your reply to Nebraska Dave (without having attended Charles Eisenstein’s talk, which sounds like it was interesting). So I should probably stop there, but I’m me, so I won’t. 🙂

    Until a few months ago when I took a huge leap of faith and left it behind, I was on that hamster wheel that left me very little time, energy, or convenient access for making better lifestyle choices all around, food included. My change was about simplifying; paradoxically, in terms of food, it’s not so simple.

    But!

    I believe I have better access to locally grown food than I did, say, five or ten years ago, and that is because of the seeds being sown by people like you and your farming community.

    There are blogs like yours and Rachel’s (http://rachels-table.com/about/) that remind me that there are options and friends who have “simplified” before me and are happy in their new choices.

    My daughter lives about 30 minutes away and for the past two summer worked every other weekend at a farmer’s market near me for a program that helps SNAP recipients use their funds for locally grown produce. I visited mainly to spend time with her; otherwise, I might not even have known about the market because it’s held in the mall parking lot and I don’t care much for the mall. It’s pretty strategic placement for reaching young families, though, and anecdotally speaking, that seems to be working.

    I very much admire what you and Cherie and your whole community are doing, what Rachel is doing, and, of course, what my daughter is doing. It may at times seem quixotic, but I hope you’ll keep at it.

    Happy Easter!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks HC. We made the decision to simplify our lives before deciding to try to operate the farm commercially and we will continue on that path even if we should stop trying to run our farm as a business. If what we’re doing is helpful to folks searching for a better way, then we’re doing good (even as we admit we’re just trying to find the right path ourselves). I get a little frustrated when I hear about communities with crowded farmers markets, waiting lists for local food, and a commitment to sustainability. Our community is just not there yet, even though I strongly believe we someday will be.

      Your daughter is doing good work. So is Rachel. Hopefully we are too, even if seems to be taking a long time for the seeds to germinate.

      Yes it does all seem quixotic at times, but that’s OK by me. It brings to mind one of my favorite passages from Wendell Berry: https://practicingresurrection.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/let-us-tilt-against-the-windmills/

      Hoping you’re having a happy and joyous Easter.

      Like

  4. shoreacres says:

    I’d think a little more about the difference (if any) between hope and optimism, but I’m not much inclined toward thinking. It’s a day of celebration and joy, a time to remember that, in the midst of the transitory and the imperfect, there is that “something more” that sustains us. Well, at least it sustains me.

    In any event, a blessed Easter to you and Cherie – as well as to the chickens and goats and cats and whoever else is roaming around there. It was foggy here this a.m., but it’s going to clear and I’m off with a friend for a little wild flower viewing and a picnic. I hope the sun’s shining on you, too.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I see an important distinction between hope and optimism. For me hope is the chance/possibility that things will turn our well (as opposed to hopelessness, where that possibility does not seem to exist). We may hope for things that are probable, or for things that are highly unlikely, being comforted or assured either way with the knowledge that there is a possibility that what we hope for will occur. Optimism is choosing to expect a favorable outcome. We can have hope, but not be optimistic. It seems to me that one can hope for something, but be a pessimist about the likelihood of it occurring.

      Thanks for the kind thoughts and I hope you had a great Easter. It was a beautiful glorious sunny day here.

      Like

  5. Bill, small farms have always been a struggle to sustain. My Dad never owned more than 200 acres. I can never remember a time when he was a full time farmer. I would say that he would have been called a “Gentleman farmer”. He always worked a full time job outside the farm. My uncle, who I would consider a full fledged farmer, supplemented his family income as a welder during the winter months and did custom corn picking during the fall harvest. With the advent of government subsidies and cheap oil for transportation, the food is cheaper from California and Mexico than it is locally. Unfortunately, many people are struggling just to survive and could care less about whether their food is organic or not. They just want cheap food. But then again as we have discussed here before, the eating habits have become fast food or processed food from the big box chain stores.

    My prayers are for you and all other small homestead farms to have an over abundance of produce this year. Many blessings my blogger friend and have a very blessed Easter.

    Have a great sowing day.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dave. I’m a retiree so fortunately paying our bills isn’t dependent upon making our farm profitable. But one of our goals was to make the farm economically sustainable in a way that could be replicated by young people. That requires better marketing or better markets, I suppose. At least for now. I feel for the people who have invested their life and savings in it and are struggling to survive. The average age of farmers in the U.S. is around 60. Who will replace those farmers when it costs millions of dollars in overhead to get started in farming and when even then the only way to make enough to afford a home, insurance, etc. is to grow stuff you can’t actually eat?

      But beneath it all there is a movement bubbling up that has the potential to change and overthrow the system. I really believe that is going to happen, but that kind of change takes time.

      Hoping you had a fine Easter Sunday.

      Like

  6. Steve says:

    Hang tough. The Isrealites wandered a desert for 40 years and all they did, it seems, is complain about the food! Lol. What’s happening elsewhere is a distraction. If you are right, you will prevail. “Right,” however is a evolving concept, so you must be flexible, reflective and willing to stop things without the burden of self-doubt. Keep looking forward!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That’s good advice and I appreciate it. Last year I met some young people from Oregon who had moved to Bedford, Virginia to start a farm. I asked them why they would leave Oregon, where the food movement is so strong, to come here. They answered that there they would have a three year wait to get a spot at a farmers market and here they could step right in with no wait. To them coming here was a way to get in on the ground floor. It’s a good perspective.

      We are willing to stop things. This year we’re going to put everything we do to the test. Is it enjoyable? Is there a market for it? Is it sustainable? Only things that score yes on all three will stay.

      Hopefully next year we’ll only be growing things (or a commercial scale) that we’re good at growing and that people want.

      Like

  7. beeholdn says:

    This work that you do is important and inspiring, and the vision, creativity and energy you are able to bring to it (and also to your writing) seem nothing short of miraculous. (You’re surely ‘tapping into’ the Source, in synch with its power and dream for you—and it has found, in you and your family, a worthy vessel. In a compilation of prayers I found on an Indigo remainder shelf after Christmas, there’s one attributed to King William III; a sentence therefrom: “O Lord, in confidence of Thy great mercy and goodness . . . grant me the wisdom and understanding to know my duty, and the heart and the will to do it.”) I think that farms like yours offer the only possibility for agriculture to help in healing the land it’s managed to degrade, the world over, in decades / centuries past: truly our best hope for the future of food. Thank-you!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thank you for your kind words and for your encouragement. 🙂

      That’s a fine prayer. I’ve been praying variations of it for many years.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s