Monday, February 02, 2009

Farming for Freedom

Farming for Freedom... the counterintuitive version.

Yesterday I went traipsing around the city in search of a CD that I had heard at a friend's dinner party the other week. Now, I haven't gotten any new music for a really long time, and was irrationally excited by the thought of owning it. Much to my chagrin, at the record store I was told that the CD was out of stock probably indefinitely, as the artist had made only 5,000 copies of the album. However, it was whispered in my ear that the music could be gotten online for free, or for a small donation (completely optional, but being the midwestern girl that I am, I donated) It struck me as odd and wonderful that there was something that I wanted to buy, but couldn't because the artist had chosen to just let people download the music for free. Counterintuitive indeed.

In this day and age with all the economic craziness being visited on us daily, freedom (economically speaking or otherwise) is certainly on lots of folks' minds. I got to thinking about freedom, and all the different ways it relates to farming. Traditionally, farming has been seen (especially in this country) as a sort of oppressive, backward profession that ties people to the land and restricts their freedom. But there is a rising crop of farmers out there creating their own freedom daily by doing their own thing, creating their own markets and their own communities, operating outside the constraints of conventional agriculture. It seems that we're entering a period of flux, where the small, the homespun, may afford more personal freedom than the reliance on larger structures, be they corporations or commodity markets.

Now this kind of freedom does entail quite a bit of good old-fashioned elbow grease, but in speed-bumpy, rugged times speckled throughout our history, we've never been known as stingy with our hard-work ethic. And Americans through the ages from Jefferson to Thoreau to my personal hero Wendell Berry, have advocated for the freedom that comes from one's ability to provide for oneself. The bonus is that on the other end of that commitment wrought in elbow grease, there are many benefits to be reaped: namely community and conviviality and satisfaction of a job well done and tasty food created.

Anybody who's interested in tasting a bit of this freedom (quite literally!), can most surely do it. Whether you'd like a New York-centric experience or an internship or apprenticeship further afield, there are many organizations and farms out there in need of extra hands. Talk about free... by offering a token of your time, you can get an amazing dose of knowledge and know-how. I will be posting a bunch of links on the blog for organizations that can bridge the gap between farmers and folks who want to learn. For now, here's some free fodder for all you would-be farmers out there from a crafty little collective called the Greenhorns. It's their Greenhorns Guide for Beginning Farmers and it's an amazing almanac that covers the rudiments of getting down and dirty.

It's the perfect time of year to hatch a plan or plant a seed for this coming spring. Happy germinating!

1 comment:

Phil said...

What a treat to read this. I was struck that I was reading things that resonated exactly with insights I heard yesterday at a "town meeting" event that our unique, intense Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and equally unique and intense Bill McKibben hosted in Woodstock (VT) - including, among others, the win/win nature of farm-intern relationships and the return to small-scale innovation that we're seeing on some farms. You are on the same wavelength as Bernie, Bill and many of the audience members who spoke. Maybe it comes from eating Vermont cheese.