Sunday, May 22, 2011

And They Shall Return To The Old Ways

This is Amanda, who, to my knowledge, has never lived on a farm. This is her Corolla mare, Secotan. Secotan knows her roots. When one looks's into her eyes it is obvious that she knows that she has lived on the Outer Banks for nearly 400 years.

Amanda may be one of a new breed of kids coming along who are finding their roots in a surprising way. Amanda will be a student at the Governor's School for a session on agriculture. Take a close look. You may be looking a a future farmer of America.

Disgust with factory farm practices along with health and nutritional concerns are leading to new farm practices,new farms, and best of all new farmers. My son in law is a former Peace Corps volunteer with a masters degree in horticulture from Virginia Tech. He and my daughter have a home on a very few acres with a green house that they built, a small egg production program and a tremendous gardening operation. They market their products at a local farmer's market, through a co-op, and on the internet. They are working hard and their farm is on the road to prosperity.

One long time rider has a brother who just graduated from college with plans to become a first generation farmer. Another rider's brother in law is looking to do the same thing.

This is more than a fad. It is a trend, and perhaps one of the most encouraging trends of this century. I share Jefferson's view of the debilitating effects of urban life on the human spirit. The further one lives from the soil the more difficult it becomes to build a meaningful life and a strong family. One's hands may be best washed with soap and water but one's heart is best cleansed by sweat and dirt.

However, living the country life does not require ownership of thousands of acres. The new young farmers are demonstrating what can be achieved on a small piece of land. My daughter and her husband both have full time jobs aside from their produce business. Their spare time is spent together, working and producing together. The biggest surprise to me is how my wife is drawn to participate in their endeavor. Beth, a senior assistant Attorney General, takes great pleasure in helping with the washing of eggs.

Mindless adherence to tradition causes stagnation. Mindless worship of technology is even worse. However, respect for tradition and a yearning for innovation brings out the best of the creative human spirit. That is the hope that the new farmers bring to our nation.

These new farmers are also the best hope for the preservation of endangered heritage breeds of livestock. They are the kind of people that intrinsically understand the importance of the work being done by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. These new farmers are also perfect candidates to develop a new horsemanship that will speed the collapse of an established horse world that is based solely on greed and competition and nurtured in rank ignorance masquerading as truth. These new farmers can become vital parts of the effort to preserve the Corollas, both by supporting the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and by becoming part of the off site breeding program.

These new farmers are pioneers. They seek the future by looking to our past.

Turns out that space is not truly the last frontier after all.

(The other picture is from today's Daily Press and features a shot of my son in law Jake in front of his Browder's Fresh Pickin's booth)


Christi said...

Steve, you have hit it right on the nail with your post! I am not a farmer nor am I a very good gardener but I am trying to learn. I am "weaning" myself from the grocery store for my main groceries and eating meats raised as natural and gently as possible. I have just placed an order for Bison meat. I buy as many local vegetables as I can to support our farmers. I believe this trend is much healthier and I feel better knowing where my food came from and that it is fresh and free from added hormones and pesticides. And not to mention--the difference in taste is unbelievable!
Great post!

Anonymous said...

Great post! The USA's petroleum-dependent large-scale factory farm model is killing the planet and it is killing our health.

For another interesting insight into how "the old ways" are new again, google: TED talk Allan Savory.

Savory is a biologist who recovers (from desert) millions of acres grassland, by employing an ancient approach: moving large quantities of densely packed livestock across the landscape, never allowing them to stay in one place more than a day. In other words, mimicking migrating herds like bison and wildebeasts of old.

A common misconception is that large herds "destroy" grasslands (and they do, when spread across wide areas in ratios of one cow-calf unit per square mile, as they are in the west). Now, through the work of Savory and others, we realize that large, densely packed MIGRATING herds CREATED grasslands, and that grasslands cannot survive without 'em.

Anyone with livestock (including horses), and acreage should view this TED talk video, and think how its lessons may apply to our own small-scale land management. New England organic farmer Joel Saladin has been mimicking migrating herds on his 100 acre Polyface farm with great commercial success for years, as shown in the documentary FOOD, INC.

Thanks again, Steve. Keep up the good work!

Deb in California