The concept of the New Farm Family arose out of my work, writings and life as a householder. Moreover, it is a central tenet of a new book I am working on entitled “Returning Home” wherein I ponder what, really, it will take for us to create an alternate economic system to the one we see disrupting and erupting all around us. And while many of the concepts laid out in that book will creep into these blog posts, as it relates to the New Farm Family, I am suggesting that we, as citizens and supporters of the small farm movement, will need to come together in ever more thoughtful ways if we hope to see the small farm movement flourish. Sorry if that sounds preachy, it’s just that I’ve given the challenges of the small farming movement quite a bit of thought and, well, that’s the side I’ve come down on. In fact that’s why I’ve joined the board. I love me some farmer and I am given to doing everything I can to help them survive cause, well, they ain’t got it easy.
You see, while most of us are clearly committed to the CSA movement (you would not be reading this otherwise) many of us do not understand the deeper challenges. Or should I say I didn’t. For one, most of today’s young farmers did not grow up on a farm and while their hearts and backs are willing, they are a facing a very steep learning curve along with very high operating costs. Many are starting in debt or on a very small operational budget which, as we all can likely relate, can stress a body out. But most significantly, from a historical perspective, many of today’s new young farmers are taking on the work of growing, harvesting and marketing food without the support of the rest of their “farm family”. They are working long hours in the field only to return to a home that needs tending, piles of laundry begging to be done and a meal that must be cooked. My experience is that little or any of that ever gets done. In fact, if you asked your farmer what they had for dinner last night they’d likely say cold pizza and a granola bar. Which is a shame, if not ironic, given all the time they give to growing good food. Am I being dramatic? I don’t think so.
For many years now I have been functioning as the erstwhile farm mom helping with the tasks and chores that too often get overlooked. And what I can tell you is, when you make your farmer a nice meal or a batch of biscuits, help with the laundry or pull weeds then, well, you will have a friend for life. But I am not talking about doing favors or volunteering in as much as I am about partnering in a life we are all feeling challenged by given the deeper social, economic and political conditions we are all facing today.
Whether urban or rural, apartment dweller or living down on the farm, all of us are facing the costs of land and housing that is rapidly escalating. All of us are seeing the cost of living outstripping our wages. All of us are watching the consequences (if not hubris) of pairing an economy based on unlimited growth with a planet needing a limit to growth. These issues and so many more will be the topic of future posts if only because I want you all to understand what being a member of a farm family really means and/or offers.
Yes, it is about helping your farmer but so is about helping ourselves, our spirits, the planet and all our brothers and sisters who are facing challenges we cannot really imagine. Which makes us partners in arms so to speak. We are the new bedfellows in a radical, audacious and delicious new populist movement. That, dear farm family lovelies, is what I’m talking about.
Of course I readily admit I’m reaching for, if not political revolution, an economic one. I’m reaching and writing and teaching the concepts behind creating a home economy to replace this virulent, hungry, take-no-prisoners market system but then that’s me. I understand others do not have their hair quite as fully on fire as me. But the good news is we can all start where we are, as we are and from the heart and spirit of co-operation. And while not everyone has the same skills nor time, if each CSA member takes on just one day a month we could do a heap of good. It does not have to be a big task or time consuming. A plate of cookies or a trip to the market will help. A casserole dish, load of laundry, cleaning out the refrigerator (this I have gotten major love for), weeding, mending or some miscellaneous paper work would all be appreciated. But I’m sure you have your own ideas and I’d like to hear them.
So who are you and who is your farmer? What does being a member of a farm family mean to you? How can you participate? What have you already done (cause your farmers have sung your praises). What is challenging your own time and resources? Which makes this blog a kind of virtual Grange Hall. This is our place to meet. The place to share ideas, recipes and anything else you would like to share. This is the eaters’ place, the CSA members place until, or as, we find the time to meet fact to face, heart to heart, at picnics, outings, classes (anyone want to learn food preservation) and all manner of farm family gatherings. Sound good?
I close now with a quote from the Declaration of Purposes of the National Grange – 1874
“We propose meeting together, talking together, working together, buying together, selling together, and, in general, acting together for our mutual protection and advancement, as occasion may require.”