Since we began this project, in fall of 2013, many people have asked us “so how’s the farm?” We thought we would provide a brief explanation of the why and what of the project in case you are also wondering. If you like what’s happening, you may consider taking part by attending events, becoming a member or by simply supporting our efforts with a donation.
Supporting a Transition to Green Living – The trajectory of global temperatures does not look promising and it seems clear that reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is an important part of the solution. Policy makers are not moving fast enough for us to rely on top down changes, so we are helping to support people in the community who want to begin to reduce their impact on the earth find simple, affordable solutions that improve the quality of our lives while helping to undo some of the damage we’ve been doing to our soil, water and air. So far, at the Farm this involves organizing and offering workshops and farm visits, hosting gatherings and college class projects, and learning about permaculture and creating demonstration prototypes so people can see these sustainable solutions in action.
Undoing Consumerism and Classism – Part of the solution to the climate problem is simply to reduce the things we consume. We often resist this solution because we think it will make us feel deprived. We also may resist this because conspicuously consuming is one of the main ways we communicate to other people our status. In our U.S. culture, wasteful consumption signals that we have more than enough wealth, and wealth confers honor. Cutting back on consumption, or consuming things that are utilitarian, frugal or associated with the working class, may be distasteful to us because it signals to others we can’t afford anything “better.” For many, doing things for ourselves, growing food, sewing, building and repairing what we use, has become dishonorable. We are often unaware of how powerfully this influences our decisions concerning what work we do, what activities we engage in and what types of things we consume. Having a group of people who also value simplicity and frugality is one way to support the choice to move towards less consumption. So far, this takes the form of organizing work parties around growing food, building facilities and creating useful household items that reduce our need to rely on disposable plastic items.
Connecting with Nature – Connecting with nature makes us more willing to take action to protect the natural world. People of all ages are spending more time indoors on screens and are losing this important connection. Young people in particular benefit from time outdoors. We are creating a safe but engaging outdoor environment to encourage people to connect or reconnect with the natural world. From gardening to organized outdoor games, to outdoor projects and activities for young people, students, and people of all ages, we provide many opportunities to explore and enjoy the outdoors. So far, this involve hosting school groups and student service-learning and course projects, hosting nature walks, teaching people sustainable growing methods, demonstrating sustainable forestry and introducing people to the important role forests play in a health ecosystem. We hope to expand to include forest farming and sustainable wood harvesting as we update our forestry plan.
Integrating Artistic Expression – Developing our creative abilities is an important part of responding to change. We need to be able to imagine new ways of being and we need to express the emotional resistance we have to change in order to find the courage to move in new directions. Theater, music, storytelling, art and crafts all help to develop our creative and intuitive abilities. These activities also help us strengthen our relationships and find joy in activities that don’t require wasteful spending. One of the highlights of our year is the annual Theatre, Arts, and Food Week that introduces young people to a variety of modes of artistic expression as well as giving them experience growing, preparing and preserving delicious, organic food in a regenerative way. Our monthly camp-fire sing-alongs provide a great way for people of all ages to come together to enjoy music. Barn dances and musical performances in the barn as well as ongoing dance and storytelling events also provide opportunities to create and share artistic expression together.
Naturally Supporting our Health and Wellbeing – We are often unaware of the many ways we can easily and enjoyably support our physical, mental and emotional health through integrating healing plants and herbs and health-supporting activities. Commercial culture often portrays these options as being unsupported by scientific evidence, thus casting doubt on their efficacy, or they use them to promote additional spending on all kinds of alternative health products. Growing and preparing one’s own individualized remedies is not for everyone, but for those who are up for learning new things it a great way to avoid the consumerism while benefiting from the health promoting benefits the earth provides. By focusing on easy to grow, perennial plants and herbs, we can enjoy these benefits with minimal effort once we know what our body needs. We are hosting workshops and demonstrations of a variety of alternative approaches to health and wellbeing as well as growing and preserving our own limited range of medicinal plants.
Demonstrating Social Enterprise – People often assume an organization must be either a for-profit business or a non-profit funded through grants and donations. Small social enterprises organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships or cooperatives are other ways of creating opportunities for people to work together without requiring excessive administrative costs and without being constrained by the need to maximize return to investors. Our small membership based organization offers people a working example of how community resources can also be activated on a voluntary or gift-exchange basis to create non-monetary value through learning, playing and growing together.
Empowering Young People - Rather than solely creating activities for young people, we are seeking to include them in multigenerational activities that allow young people to participate as equals in decisions that affect them. Every age group has something to offer and things to learn. By creating projects that include young and old we hope to allow everyone to develop their group leadership skills and to become active members of their communities. During Theatre Arts, Food week, young people help to create the performances, the workshops, the food and art. They are welcome to join those activities, including building projects and sustainability workshops that might otherwise be considered only for adults.
Learning Together - Learning is an inherently enjoyable activity that allows us to follow our curiosity, practice new skills, expand our knowledge and deepen our relationships. We often resist learning new things because we fall into habits or we are afraid of being judged for not knowing how to do something. We seek to create opportunities to allow people to learn together, try out new things and experiment with creative activities or new low-tech solutions that use knowledge of natural systems to bring in greater harmony with the earth. So far, this takes the form of leading and hosting workshops on simple sustainable techniques for growing and building and sharing leadership on building projects to allow everyone to share their knowledge and skills.
How you can help?
Starting a new organization is always a somewhat daunting task; doing it on top of two full-time jobs is even more so. Our accomplishments thus far are fairly modest, but we hope over time to grow into an outdoor community space for all kinds of activity and organizing around the ideas we’ve outlined above. Below we have listed what we have accomplished so far. For the fall of 2016 we are hosting our first grant-funded small solutions workshop in addition to our on-going programs – sing-alongs, storytelling, growing workshops and hosting community groups.
If you would like to become a member and participate in and help create what happens here, we would love to have you join the Farm. If you can’t take part yourself, but you want to support the development of this project in the community, please consider making a donation to support our work. Donations go towards scholarships and costs associated with programming expenses, repair and upkeep of facilities. Of course, if you have other priorities, we understand. Whether or not you join or support these efforts, always feel welcome to attend any of the events and please share with others the work we are doing and some of the motivation behind the project.