This is the time of year on our farm that we reflect on our past growing season and consider the take-aways we can use going forward. We work hard to accept the lessons that came with failures and resolve our feelings connected to loss. We also highlight the things that went well, and give them equal footing to provide ourselves a healthy balance for the future.
We combine the knowledge of our experience with the picture we have painted for ourselves of what the perfect growing season on the very best version of our farm would look like. This future vision is our guiding star that helps us make decisions for the coming year. With this image in our heads, we prepare to continue our journey toward that future.
Such is the process of renewal. We integrate what has gone before into our knowledge base and we use it to build a plan for the perfect season where our vision is realized. For those who work the soil, this is our cycle of hope — and we value the energy it brings us to do the work that needs doing.
Reflecting on the past
This past year has been a difficult one for many of us — a pandemic, storms, job and food insecurity, political strife and all the rest — and we have no shortage of lessons that come from failure. Corporate dominance in agriculture and food production along with continued reliance on chemical-intensive practices has created a fragile and inflexible system. For example, some farmers found themselves disposing of milk and euthanizing hogs when the pandemic limited the supply chain’s capacity.
On the other hand, people were re-learning how to prepare foods at home and the demand for eggs and other food staples increased. Many local foods growers reported increased demand, and some farmers were finding alternative ways to continue supplying food to consumers. Many growers showed that they could react to the situation and make adjustments. That alone is a reason for hope.
Change is possible, now we just need a solid goal to move towards.
Building a vision
On our farm, we jokingly call the process of goal-setting a symptom of “Farmer Delusional Syndrome.” We allow ourselves to build up anticipation for the perfect growing season that is to come. All seeds will germinate and mature into productive plants. The weeds and pests will not harm our crops, and we will get rain in proper measures exactly when we need it. There will be rainbows, butterflies, and tasty green beans and peppers.
The truth is, we do not actually delude ourselves into thinking there will be no problems in the future. We are fully aware of the challenges that face us, yet we still see value in holding up our destination so we can see where we are going. If we believed that we could reach our vision without effort, and that we could make our best decisions without a very good idea of what we are working toward — I would then agree that we were deluding ourselves.
This is a key reason why I joined Pesticide Action Network (PAN) last April. I believe part of PAN’s role is to help visualize the ideal for our agriculture and food systems. I wanted to be part of a team that saw a way to move out of the nightmare and toward the dream.
It feels like we have lost sight of the image of a diverse and healthy farmscape, and even our farmers are beginning to lose touch with the soil that nurtures the crops they grow. We need to indulge in the hope that vision-building can bring us — so we can point ourselves toward that goal each and every year to come.
As we head into 2021, I invite you to join me in painting a picture showing diversity in the farmscapes and the farmers. I encourage you to picture healthy soils, clean waterways and thriving rural communities. I want all of us to have access to quality, healthy foods. And, I am still hoping that we will experience our share of rainbows, butterflies, and tasty green beans and peppers.