Friday, June 7, 2013

Teaching

I spent a lot of time alone last season. Kim worked here on the days she wasn't at her off farm job, and we were buried in work for most of the season. This year has been a completely different experience. With Kim here, we fall into a rhythm, sometimes barely exchanging a word. We can send a glance from across the field and know what the other is noticing- an empty watering bucket, or a plant with an issue- or a fence line down. We finish each other's planting rows, pick up each other's drop tools and move across the long days together.

This year we also have the pleasure of sharing our little world with our intern, James. Nothing can humble you more quickly then realizing that there is someone to witness your struggles (damn piglets) or remind you how far you have come. Farming isn't taught to everyone any more, its's not common place for every backyard to have clucking hens, or need to lock up gates with old wooden handles. We don't teach about electric fencing,  or animal health/behavior- or so many of the other daily happenings. I've learned that I could be better about explaining why we do things the way we do, and it's pushed both of us I think to slow down and appreciate that each task has a very distinct purpose.

I think that the hard labor of each day sometimes overshadows the bigger picture. I've been struggling with how to explain that each rock we lift from the rows of vegetables is an act of defiance. The farm here is our political act- we push aside notions of societal "success" in favor of helping neighbors with long hours of fumbling with ruminants because we know that the favor will pay off. The farm covers it's costs, and keeps us fed and what not- but we live outside of so much of U.S. typical exchanges. It's not uncommon for us to trade good for other goods, or time helping for a tool etc. If there is a problem, we don't slow down until it's solved, and often we have to fix the same problem multiple times (be it fencing, or goat pens or whatever). 

The daily acts of farming are hard enough, and often require the same movements over, and over again, and over again. Its lifting and pushing and kneeling. But everything about our current, u.s. culture says- buy it instead. Or- get a different job. There's so many layers to each day. Our food policy is routed in mechanized, subsidized, often questionable quality, overly packaged and processed goods. Our notions of success lay in degrees, high paying jobs, perfectly manicured lawns, and... debt. Our expectations say that technology is always the victor, if it's broken- get a new one. Not many of these things hold true on our farm. Things are slow, they take hours, often with just two hands, and we'll never be rich. But we are fulfilled. How do you convey that on hour 13 when the piglets are still escaped and the fence posts are broken? How do you take that minute, and remind all present that it's not just a fence? How do you empower others to keep trying, to consider growing their own food when you've just watched an entire row of tomatoes drown in an overly enthusiastic spring rain? I'm just not sure how to simultaneously convey reverence and joy for the act of growing food while forcing my already sore back to lift the hoe a few more times. I don't want the revolution of growing food to get bogged down in the actual hard work- but at the same time the only way to  actually make the farm thrive is to settle in to many, many hours of brutal monotony.

I think that teaching skills is one thing, but inspiring drive, passion and understanding are a completely different skill set. And I'm not sure one that we've mastered here- but we keep at it. The same way that we keep after the weeds, we keep after the creeping assumptions that everything should be easy, or that farming is a lost art. 

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