Farming for me has always been a joyful act. Actually, a joyful accident. Spending time in the dirt has helped to calm the panic that rages inside me. It has grounded me and given me a distraction from the overwhelming noise of the world...a tune that is out of tune; a rhythm that I cannot follow without falling out of step; a song that I know the words to but refuse to sing.
The more blogs I read by other farmers the more conviction I feel towards the methods that Willy and I have chosen to use on our own farm. Although it is beautiful and effective, it is far from the norm.
I just finished reading a blog that was recommended as one of the best farm blogs in the nation....I am going to repeat this....one of the best farm blogs in the nation. This blog went on and on for pages about the virtues of large scale Ag. It showed endless images of massive semi-sized combines, argued the shortsightedness of scientists in blaming GMOs and insecticides for the demise of the honeybee, discussed farming futures and commodity markets. This is virtuous farming in the eyes of our nation? You've got to be fucking kidding me.
Thanks but no thanks fellas. Keep your GPS driven combines and your armies of migrant quasi-illegal slave labor.
On our family vacation, we spent some time in and around Pismo, CA. Every November we close up the farm and head out of town for a few weeks to show our kiddos the world. We rent a minivan and drive through Washington, Oregon, over to Utah, across Nevada and finally to California. During the entire drive, Willy and I scan the fields and look at the agriculture endemic to a particular area. We point out different crops to the kids (Uugh-huh...More grapes...is the typical response from the back seat).The stretch between Salinas and Pismo CA. is the 'salad belt' of the United States. Of all the ground we cover, this is the only place where there are crops resembling the ones we grow at home on our own farm. Namely broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, salad mix, kale, head lettuce, strawberries and cabbage.
There is a little corner of the Oceano Dunes SVRA (think 4 wheeling heaven with 2 story high sand dunes) where you can walk out on a boardwalk to see a variety of migratory waterfowl in their winter habitat; the small Oso Flaco lake which is stuck between the berms of the surrounding Oceano Dunes SVRA and the Guadalupe-Nipmo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. We went to check it out since part of our trip involves the identification and cataloging of bird species that are new to us.
Butting up to the parking lot for this boardwalk trail are the farm fields of the southern edge of the Coastal Range...the western flank of the San Joaquin Valley. Broccoli and strawberries stretch out as far as the eye can see....until your eye is broadsided by the sight of the Phillips 66 Santa Maria oil refinery that sits about a mile in-land and smack dab in the middle of the aforementioned fields (Images of oil covered sea-birds filled my thoughts during the entire walk).
The fields are full of farm workers; it is almost Thanksgiving. Not a single worker is Caucasian. A Mexican flag waves proudly from one of the multiple harvest vehicles.
So, this is agriculture of the future? Fields so large you cannot see the other side, an oil refinery in the middle, workers who do not consider this country their home?
I immediately became homesick.
What am I getting at here? I guess what I am saying is that I am proud of the way we farm. And I think we are doing a good job. Since my reality is looking at a forest full of wildlife when I am out working, it is hard to see farms set up any other way. I don't like to be belittled by my nation because I believe that small organic farms are advantageous to both the people they serve and the life that interacts with them. I believe that the alternative is a crime on so many levels that formulating it into words is close to impossible. It is a crime of the spirit.
So Viva la Tierra Madre. Because I know that when I die, you will be the one to set my soul free.
|The Phillips 66 Oil Refinery near Oso Flaco Lake|