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Illustration by Chris Wormell from ‘Letters to a Young Farmer.’

NATURE’S TURN: Grow food, however little; grow flowers, even a few

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By Monday, Mar 12, 2018 Farm and Table

March 12 – 25, 2018

“It’s a bold business [farming] in which you will partner with your ecosystem in everyday acts of creation.” — * Barbara Kingsolver

Mount Washington — Two blizzards, one after the other, have hurled a blanket of snow nearly a yard deep over our hilltown gardens. We walk through steep-walled cuts between packed, crystalline, icy walls from house to garden hut to wood shed and the road. Snow, a phenomenal mass of snow, has not diminished the momentum gathered in wild nature and human communities toward readiness for the growing season.

Illustration by Chris Wormell from ‘Letters to a Young Farmer’

Reflections on the vigor that propels all who are growers – small, large or aspiring – are offered in the recent publication of “Letters to a Young Farmer,”* a collection of brief essays by beloved writers and leaders of the ecological farming movement. The book, assembled by Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, while a compelling resource for young farmers, speaks to everyone by placing care of the land at the heart of the survival and flourishing of all citizens.

How we grow our food, where we purchase seed and from whom we purchase food affects our health and the health of the land, water and air. All of these decisions shape our communities, promote our cultural vitality or effect its demise. Wendy Millet, educator-rancher-conservationist, says it this way: “Physically, ecologically, and culturally, we are what we eat, and what we eat has never changed more dramatically than it has over the past fifty years.” (Page 124)

Outstanding in “Letters to a Young Farmer” is the expression of gratitude to individuals who choose farming as a vocation. We are prompted to make the connection between the value of the food we eat and those we entrust with producing it. One of my first influences, Wes Jackson, co-founder of the Land Institute, states the overarching challenge: “On the line in our time is an ecological worldview struggling to replace the industrial mind, as we embrace nature’s wisdom rather than rely on human cleverness.” (Page 29)

Phacelia tanacetifolia. Image courtesy Higgledygarden.com

In closing, as a nod to the equinox Sun, I’m prompted to recommend Phacelia tanacetifolia as a cover crop that will nourish your garden soil, discourage weeds, feed pollinators and provide cut flowers. Be sure to plan to grow food, however little, and flowers, even a few.


*”Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming, and Our Future,” Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, Martha Hodgkins, editor; Chris Wormell, illustrator. Princeton Architectural Press, NY 2017 – http://www.papress.com/html/product.details.dna?isbn=9781616895303

Interview with “Letters” editor – http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-03-08/letters-to-a-young-farmer/

Phacelia: cover crop, cut flower – http://notillveggies.org/2015/07/08/phacelia-is-a-bumble-bee-paradise/

New seed varieties – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/27/dining/row-7-seed-company-dan-barber.html

Opportunities to participate

Workshops for farmers, food citizens, teachers, high school students – https://www.stonebarnscenter.org/engage/

Video – https://www.stonebarnscenter.org/engage/for-students/the-stone-barns-summer-institute/

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