The Truth of Why I Farm

I find truth a hard thing to nail down. Because it’s different for everyone. Because our own truths change. Because I seem to have an inherent distrust in those that have The Answers, which feel like another version of The Truth – something which I don’t think can exist, because no one Truth would ring true for everyone. We all collect the bits and pieces of who we are, our experiences in the world, our choices, our circumstances, and create a truth for ourselves – which is like a blanket made of iridescent bird feathers – woven, shimmering, dancing, and changing in the changing light of our lives.

And yet, I’ve always felt fairly certain of my own truths, when I come across them, picking them up like particularly fetching stones on the beach, slipping them in my pocket so I can run my fingers over their smooth surfaces when I need reassurance or a reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing. Recognising, of course, the potential there is for those truths to change on me, as I learn, grow, and change myself.

Over the past decade or so, one thing has emerged as an inherent truth for me, one that has buoyed me up in a changing world, over changing circumstances, through times of uncertainty and into the unknown. This truth is that I am here on this earth, in this body, with relative health and strong muscles, to grow food for people, for communities. I am here to farm. I know this is true because when all else falls away, when I consciously try to take a step in another direction, I end up drawn, like a moth to flame, back to the land, to sinking my hands in the soil, to coaxing nourishing and delicious vegetables from it.

Beautiful head lettuce mid-harvest on Sweet Acres Farm, summer of 2020.

But nothing is ever quite so simple, is it?

For farming in this day and age, when you are young, landless, and more or less penniless, without a farming background, is not a simple task. Farming has never been an easy job or life, but if you don’t have access to that which is at the root of it all – land, soil, earth – you will not be able to farm.

And in the spirit of creativity and ingenuity, folks like myself – young, landless, and with a passion for farming – are turning to other arrangements. If you don’t inherit family land, have a high paying job or a partner with a high paying job who can fund your farming venture in the early days, or if you aren’t willing or able to take on a huge mortgage in order to purchase land – where does that leave you?

Winter squash, one of my all time favourite crops to grow!

It leaves you looking at leasing land – be it an urban plot, people’s unused lawns, or a larger piece of agricultural land. It leaves you looking at building relationships in order to farm, writing legal documents, sinking huge amounts of sweat equity and sometimes real financial capital into farming on land that is not yours, that you have little to no security on. In a world where farmers have always built their savings or retirement funds in the land itself, it leaves young farmers working themselves to the bone, sometimes with little or nothing to show for it after many years of toil. It will probably involve at least one move, one restart, as you look for that right situation to grow deeper roots into. In short, it takes an uncertain, challenging line of work, and adds several layers of difficulties and uncertainties on top.

And so why do I and others do it?

Because it is one of our truths. Or maybe that’s Truths, in this case. Maybe those things that you know deep in your bones, deep in the pit of your belly – maybe those are capital T Truths. Not for everyone, but for ourselves.

And in farming, this is what I’ve found. One of my capital T Truths. Something I love, and am good at, and that the world needs. And so, despite the uncertainties and the added challenges of trying to follow this life in my circumstances, I’ll keep doing it anyway, sometimes in a shaky and uncertain way, but in the best way I can. And I’ll keep doing so until this particular Truth is no longer true for me. Though I can honestly say I hope that this never happens and that I keep this particular stone of truth in my pocket until the day I die.

2 thoughts on “The Truth of Why I Farm

  1. Dear Ariella,

    How would you like some free help this year? I would love to come and work for/with you. You know I have a small amount of land here but I am perfectly capable of finding or funding more.

    What do you think?

    Love Bloodroot

    Like

    1. Hi Bloodroot, I may not be in a position of needing as much help on the farm this year due to making some changes (more on that later), but we could certainly try to meet on the farm sometime anyway this year if you’d like to see it. Let’s be in touch!

      Like

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