The Mad Agriculture Journal
November 30, 2020
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We know from experience that there are a few basic truths that cannot be shaken by the chaos of our society. It takes faith in these basic truths, that some call the laws of nature, to raise food and fiber. It also takes a paradigm shift in our thinking for one to understand the complexities that govern the laws of nature. Farming in the image of nature is the first key insight needed to begin the journey toward regenerative agriculture. We must design our farm systems to rely on the simple truths observed during our experiences when working on the land. As other key insights along this journey are revealed to us, they inspire endless possibilities of how one could design a farm system in the image of nature. We can then use planning that is inspired by our observations, to set the farm ecosystem up for success, all the while accepting that things are going to happen that we cannot control.
Therefore we must plan accordingly to design as much resilience as possible into our farm’s ecosystem. Stacking enterprises, using vertical integration in our supply chains, finding value aligned partners, and most importantly, growing and raising plants and animals that thrive in our ecological setting. And still, one has to be cautiously optimistic that the simple truths we have observed from years past, will hold true again, at least in some form, this year. One of the beauty’s of farming, and in life I suppose, is that we are given reassurance each year through experience that we can rely upon these truths in trying times. And as we get older and wiser from our experiences, our faith gets stronger in the resilience we have built into our farm ecosystem, all the while deepening our relationship with the land we steward.
Our experience tells us each spring, the days will get longer until the summer solstice and then shorten until the fall equinox up until the first day of winter. We know that the spring will bring rain and eventually the absence of frost. We observe that each plant has a purpose and a relationship with the birds, insects, mammals, and soil of its place. We see that the diversity corresponds with the health of our landscapes and correlates to the abundance of life that we see in our fields. Yet the gradual occurrence of these truths are subtle and often taken for granted in our society. This is because it takes intention to observe the simple truths in our daily lives. We must dance in rhythm with the seasons, to produce the healthy foods and fiber that sustain our society. So in agriculture, we are forced to address the dichotomy of truth and control. We have been indoctrinated to believe that we can control the environment to ensure the success of production systems. Yet this separates us from all of our counterparts in nature. So as we begin to let go of our desire to control and the hope for springs eternal, we begin to find more peace in our lives.
We must think holistically to plan for the things out of our control such as drought, fire, and pandemics that lead to a wavering in our social discourse. Things will change, life will cycle and the living things we raise, will grow and eventually senesce. Markets evolve as do the relationships with staff and our customers. Supply and demand will ebb and flow. The simple truth is that developing and maintaining heartfelt, honest relationships with our customers, employees, families and friends takes hard work. And this work will lead us to success in our lives regardless of the ever changing aforementioned uncontrollable variables. In fact, the success of our business may very well depend on how well we have planned for the unexpected. Success also depends upon how willing one is to adapt their plans.
Our children will grow older and we will too. Politicians will emerge and then fade away into history. No perfect day or perfect job or season will last forever, and that is okay. The oldest tree in the forest will one day fall and give light to another. We can use this wisdom to appreciate our days, moments and years while we live the lives that we were intended to live. And ultimately, the fact that the sun will rise and set each passing day, is our greatest truth. And everyday, we are reminded of this truth by the beauty of this diurnal occurrence.