MENF 2011: More on not having to go it alone

I think it is a human trait to view new undertakings, especially ones that are large or difficult, as occurring in some kind of isolation. Yet the truth is that very few people are really going it alone at anything we try to do.

The growing desire so many people have to establish sustainable, ready lives is a perfect example. I know when I took over Innisfree Farm, I felt like I was doing it all by myself, especially given the attitudes of the farmers I interact with most often. I believed that I had to figure this out myself and that I wasn’t going to get any help.

As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While there is a dearth of sustainable agriculture and readiness mindset in my specific locality, thousands upon thousands of people around the US and around the world are doing some version of what I am doing. All I have to do is seek them out and ask for advice.

And that’s all you have to do too.

Whether you’re trying to plant a window box or a thousand acres, put together a 72-hour readiness kit or establish an off-grid thousand-acre farm, there are people out there trying to do the same thing you are doing. They want to talk to you, to share their experiences and advice. Not a small number of them even want to help you succeed.

None of this is to say such undertakings are going to be suddenly easy. It has been my experience on the farm that the most worthwhile undertakings are hard because they are worthwhile. Yet, knowing that there are people you can turn to to commiserate, ask questions of, and even ask for help makes the going easier even if the work is hard.

If I may suggest, the fact that you are even reading this blog post is the first example you can cite of there being others out there willing to offer advice and help. The whole reason I established this weblog is so that I can share my experience with others with the hope that it will help others struggling through the same things I am. I am always willing to hear from you, to listen to your stories, to offer advice when I am able, and to help build networks of people trying to do what we’re doing.

Over the next while–I can’t really say how long it might take–I hope to add to this site large quantities of information on organizations, publications, and resources I know and have used to make my effort easier. Along the way, I also hope to build a network of people who are doing the same thing and who are willing to offer the same commiseration, advice, and help I would like to offer.

And you should do the same. Maybe you don’t want to maintain a weblog, but you can still seek out your neighbor who also gardens or your local sustainable agriculture group. You can go to farmer’s markets and actually talk to the farmers or seek out conventions and fairs on the subject. By doing so, you’re helping build the network and make things a little better for all of us.

DLH

An open letter to farmers big and small, sustainable or not

Dear farmers,

I’ve read a lot about how none of you want cuts to federal farm subsidies or programs. I’m betting no one whose federal budget is on the chopping block right now wants their funding to go, but the extreme nature of the budget crisis means that something is, by definition, going to have to go.

My proposal to all of you is that we be the ones who stand up and say, “We don’t need the money.”

You see, from my point of view as a small farmer just getting started on the sustainable agriculture journey, the reason we have such a hard time making money and getting our message out as farmers is because so much of the money and so much of the message is controlled by the government. Because the government controls the money and the message, we farmers have very little control over how the money gets spent and what gets said.

For those of us who have decided to go it alone, the experience is quite different. I know from first hand experience what kind of money can be made and what kind of message can be put out there by a single farm. People are hungry–literally and figuratively–for what we are doing and they want more. In the next few years, unless something dramatically changes for us, our farm will be paying for itself without the benefit of a single government subsidy or program.

How is this possible? Because I, and those who work on and support my farm, understand that farming is a calling and a lifestyle, not just a job. I am my farm, and because of that, I care very deeply about what happens to it. Therefore, I am willing to put in the kind of blood, sweat, and tears that a mere job could never demand.

Now, is that kind of commitment for everyone? Of course not. Yet, I cannot help but notice that, if your’re not willing to make that kind of commitment, then what are you doing?

For those of us who are willing, the path leads away from the government. We don’t need government sponsored local food programs. We don’t need government price supports for commodity crops. We don’t need government rules telling us what, when, where, and how to plant.

What we need is our own determination and perseverance, and in a few years using those things, we would be free to do the thing we have come to know and love.

So let’s stop this dependence on the government and start our own independence┬ábased on the merits of our own effort.

DLH