Monday, May 23, 2011

Ain’t Life Funny?

A while back I posted about whether I thought we could manage farm tours in the near future. Writing this helped me make peace with our limits as I realized that we just wouldn’t be able to swing it. Guess what happened next? We were asked to tour a group of school kids around the farm to educate them how a working organic farm functions. We accepted. Shortly after that we were asked to participate in another annual organic summer farm tour. In addition, a few friends put forward requests to bring along their kids one day. We agreed with conditions under how these visits could work for us.

Funny thing about writing. If you’re not careful it becomes a sort of prayer. If you get it all down, the parts you feel good about and the fears you have, you find yourself navigating that very road that you laid out on the page. Articulate it and it takes on form in reality. What I was grateful for is that writing about my concerns about doing farm tours gave me the words to be gracious and honest when the requests were made.

So now, we will find ourselves in one of our busiest weeks of the year I’m certain (because that is when there is the most to see, right?) trekking kids of all ages around our farm and you want to know how I feel about this? Ecstatic! Excited! Proud! Ready! And with this opportunity we have been given support from a local coffee shop that does its darnedest to give back to their the community and educate people on fair trade and organic production. Bridgehead Coffee has got it all going on in my opinion. Not to mention the pretty photograph of our veggies that they now have on one of their coffee labels intended to raise money for educating kids and helping us out. Wowweee.

Here is what I think about my role in educating people about the ways of organic farming: it is so difficult to be passionate about describing a way of life to whoever is willing to listen and not come off preachy. These choices may not be better and they are certainly not for everyone.

Passion in my opinion is when you realize you are certain of something, if only for yourself, and ain’t nothing going to get in your way or change your mind before you've figured a way to realize that thing. We all have the choice to live the best way we know how – but that best way is different for everyone – and the choices are not always evident.

What I have learned is that there is only one way to change the world and that is to lead by example. To accomplish your own impossible and if somebody gets something out of watching that, then great. And then if you are very fortunate, you will get an opportunity to do your crazy thing in front of people who care to learn something. How could it get any better than that? This is the true stuff of leadership – doing your 'thang to the best of your ability - not bossing people around.

I am reading a fantastic book right now by Elizabeth Gilbert (yup, my Eat, Pray, Love obsession reincarnate) called The Last American Man. The book has sat unread on my shelf for years (from even before E,P,L was written) and as life goes, it is an incredibly timely book to be reading right now. The book is a biography about Eustace Conway, a man who taught himself to sew his own clothes, find his own food, live in a teepee off of the land, build fires without matches, and far more extreme things than that. But the cool part for me is that he goes into schools and educates people about his way of life.

Once again I am in awe of the way Elizabeth Gilbert manages to put words together in an informative, witty, inspiring, thought-provoking and hilarious way. She describes the times in American history that groups of people have attempted to start a utopia and outlines the relatively low rate of success for these ventures (most of which occurred between 1800 and 1900 – when I thought it all began with back-to-the-landers in the 1960s!)

What has become so glaringly obvious to me now is that it isn’t just about your utopia and my utopia (because I’ve long ago accepted that these are different things) – but that utopia itself is actually unattainable. It is so easy to pile up the things you like and say you want much more of that and pile up the things that frustrate you and try to delete them out of your life (taxes?). But the truth is that the most effective missions are those that integrate the dream stuff in and around the crappy stuff that just can’t be avoided. You accept that life ain’t necessarily what you’d hoped it would be and plant flowers (or organic vegetables) around that.

Eustace Conway says that everyone should live closer to nature. But does not recommend quitting your job, leaving your mortgage to live in a teepee. He suggests a tent in the backyard with a campfire and if that doesn’t work out, order a pizza and try again another time. He seems to acknowledge how far we all are from our perfect existence. Meanwhile we have an opportunity to wake up every day and try to do better.

And now Songberry Organic Farm (that’s us) has been handed a chance to show children how this little world of ours works. I won’t be getting hung up on the details. I’ve come to believe that all we gotta do is what we do. There might be something here worth emulating – or perhaps our particular utopia will disappear into the deep with all of the attempts that came before this one.

We’re doing our best to act on the stuff we believe in. And as you can see, I will write about it all too. It’s all so very chicken and egg, isn’t it?


  1. Congratulations on all the interest and advances in your business. Farm tours are lots of work but fun...I really like teaching the kids about our operation, just be prepared for the "Eeeww, that cow/chicken whatever just pooped!...grossss!" or in our case "It smells funny" Otherwise they are very fascinated and receptive and the coolest thing is they do actually listen, learn and get excited about what we're doing which is always a really wonderful feeling. Enjoy!

  2. people are hungry to see what happens on farms- so good of you to offer to open yours up to educating them on responsible care of the earth.Your energy and enthusiasm will be contagious!

  3. Thanks for the votes of confidance. Jen - at least our veggies don't poop :) I'm not sure how much we'll tour the barn as they seem more interested in the 'business' side of things. This will make it easier to focus and avoid poop (literally and figuratively!) - although the bears have been known to drop between the rows...


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