The defense of my thesis went very well yesterday.  As well as I could have hoped.  It’s a satisfying feeling to know that what I’m saying makes sense and is breaking new ground.

I’m writing this in a hotel room in West Virginia.  I’m tired and ready to be home on the farm I’ve neglected for the past couple of days.

My seminary career is over and I’m pleased with how it ended.

I may have some important decisions to make in the near future about what’s next for my work and I’ll share more details on that later.

Meanwhile, in a few hours I hope to be home and breaking real ground.  That’s the most important work of all.


He’s On My Side

I’m defending my thesis this afternoon.


Mr. Wesley seems to approve of it.


"I'm John Wesley and I approved this message."

“I’m John Wesley and I approved this message.”

"Eat your veggies."

“Eat your veggies.”

Hopefully a little fun won’t jinx me.  🙂


Things are still fairly relaxed on the farm these days.  There’s not much that needs to be picked or weeded.  It’s still too wet and cold to start any summer planting.  There’s no need to rush or feel pressed.

In the summer it’s usually impossible to keep up, even though the sun rises early and sets late. Those days will be upon us soon enough.

It’s almost time to cut off the wood stove for the year.  Which means I don’t have to cut any more wood for a while.  But it also means that from here on out I’ll be cutting a lot of grass instead.

A barn in the woods.

A barn in the woods.

A friend came over to fish yesterday and he landed this 3 1/2 pound whopper.   It’s one of the biggest fish I’ve seen come out of our pond.

That's a big fish.

That’s a big fish.

Then, as he was about to call it a day he made one more cast and ended up with a 6 1/2 pound monster of a fish.  Not a bad afternoon’s work.

But the other one is nearly twice as big.

But the other one is nearly twice as big.

Today I’m off to Kentucky, to defend my thesis tomorrow.


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.

Bucking the Trends

The preliminary data from the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture shows that Virginia is experiencing the same trends that are common to American agriculture as a whole.

Since 2007:

  • The number of farms in Virginia has decreased
  • The average farm size has increased
  • The average age of the principal farm operator has increased
  • Farm production and the market value of farm products has increased

These are the same trends seen nationwide, that have been ongoing now for decades.

With each passing year there are fewer farms, as more and more farms are consolidated into larger and larger “operations.”  Likewise with each passing year the average age of farmers increases, as cultural forces and prohibitive start-up costs drive young people away from farming.

The industrial megafarms that remain grow increasingly profitable.  Last year farm profits hit their highest level in nearly 50 years.

As I’ve said many times before on this blog, we are seeing a dangerous concentration of our food system into a handful of multinational corporations and a small number of very large industrial farming operations.

It is easy to find food that is cheap.

The survival of small sustainably-operated family farms like ours depends upon people making the effort to choose, and pay for, food that is nutritious and ethically-produced.


“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him. The people who give you their food give you their heart.”

Cesar Chavez

h/t Givenness