Nate and I planted our first seeds of the year last week, and I actually squealed when the first one sprouted a few days ago (and scared the crap out of Nate and Derek)- and then squealed again when they all started to pop!
My first adventure into farming was in 1993. I was eighteen, and the thrill and magic of seeing these tiny little bright green things pop out of soil was so intense. I mean- you stick a little seed in the soil and water it and then LIFE sprouts. That is crazy!
So now we have three trays with hundreds of little flower sprouts in the house. Why do I never listen to my last year self that is trying to tell me I don't have to plant THE ENTIRE packet of seeds all at once! And now my "to do" list just got longer because my little seedlings are getting leggy and overcrowded and now that packet of 100 flower seeds needs to be potted on into 100 POTS!
But- I think this is the point of life. Creating meaningful work that you actually have to do- that connects us to a greater forward momentum of sustaining ourselves with food and beauty, and becoming more attached to the earth and community.
Maybe this sounds really dreamy and lofty and weird, but I have marinated on this for decades- and it is really what keeps me farming- this pull to create something that binds me to life and earth and community and meaningful work.
What I truly love about planting seeds in the spring- and then seeing them sprout-is that it feels so tangibly hopeful. After a long winter of barely seeing the sun and slogging through the snow and mud-just when you think you can't take another minute of it- starting our first seeds is such an act of faith that Spring will come- that we will have a productive garden and food to eat.
I think we all love Spring so much because it just drips of hope- hope for better days and a better life. I like the idea that if you are sincerely going to HOPE for something you must do a little work for it. It would be nuts to hope for an awesome garden this year and not plant some seeds. It is definitely not a done deal that my seeds will sprout- but somehow they always seem to!
I guess I am a pretty hopeful person in general- I think you have to be if you are going to farm- because so great many of things are out of your control, yet we keep on breeding animals and raising animals and planting seeds and feeding animals and hoping for a better future.
I actually continue to believe that a better future is available to us- BUT, it is not enough to passively hope that it might come. Just like planting seeds, we have to actually get involved and work toward it. But we all know that it is hard to work toward things that you don't know or understand or have no context for.
Many of you may already know this, but the Farm Bill is up for renewal this year- and even though for many decades it has supported the absolute worst and most harmful agricultural practices, and there is little chance of a complete rewriting of the bill- I still have great hope that we are moving toward an Agricultural Awakening and Revival!
I say on all my farm tours that I think we are living in the strangest moment of all of human history- at least on Turtle Island- as this continent was once called. In the U.S. there is such an insanely small number of people who are raising and growing their own food. And I know that might not seem like such a big deal on the surface- but the implications of that are pretty deep.
I can absolutely attest to the fact that growing your own food can be a giant pain in the ass (ok, I promise I will tell you my middle of the night naked cattle herding story in the next post...) But growing your own food binds you to place and community, and gives you a very concrete sense of purpose, and also provides such raw joy (like when my seeds sprouted).
AND, if you are engaged in the act of raising animals and plants- you KNOW what is really going on in the soil and the environment around you. You know it because you see it every day. Even though I already believed it through a lot of study- when we started the process of rotationally grazing the cattle on the top field I SAW how the cattle were repairing the grass! It was incredible. In just one season of using intensive rotational grazing I witnessed a 6 acre field come back to life. That field had been so badly damaged by decades of crops (mainly oats grown for feed) that my neighbor told me it would be a miracle if I could restore it.
As we get further into the summer I promise I will bring you along on that particular journey (my favorite summer task is now moving the cattle- so you know you will hear all about it)- but I just want to point out that I know it can get really complex and confusing to try to understand what the right food and agricultural choices might be for a healthy, sustainable future. That's why I'm here! I promise we will start to untangle it all- but we need to have the kind of hope that is fueled by DOING SOMETHING!
I have a zoom call with our Representative next Friday to talk about the upcoming Farm Bill- and I am so excited to be able to advocate for a Farm Bill that starts to advocate for the Best farming practices- growing more grass and getting more animals grazing that grass! We call it Regenerative Agriculture because it is literally regenerating lost soil, bringing clean, organic fertility (manure!) back to the land, increasing the soil health and water holding capacity. Fun, right!
I know things seem pretty dire, but I really believe there is great hope for our Food Awakening to spread. I dream of living in a world where people are eating healthy food that supports vibrant rural communities and fighting to make agriculture an exciting part of life again. We can do it- but we have to engage, grow some food, and spread the word!
If you get a chance, watch the documentary "Kiss the Ground" (it is narrated by Woody Harrelson- I mean, it is worth watching just for that!)- then if you are so moved, call your Representative in Congress! Then plant some seeds!