A Farmer’s Thanksgiving
Join Me: At Nature’s Table, There’s Room for More
by Jim Bourne
I’m becoming convinced that the full-time farmer is as much an endangered species as the bald eagle once was. What was once the majority occupation of this nation is now so insignificant that the census no longer lists it as a separate category. We are now well under two percent of the national population; if trends continue, full-time farmers will be counted (when they are counted at all) in fractions.
As land gets swallowed up for development and the rural community of my childhood is but a distant memory, it gets harder and harder to stay the course. But there are reasons that go beyond money and consumerism that keep me here, producing food for my neighbors.
I farm because I need to. I need the connection with the land that has supported my family for almost 300 years. I farm because I demand the independence to do things my way. I farm because the land teaches me everyday what is good and healthy as well as what is harmful and destructive. I farm because of the challenge to make a living from the soil. I farm because I want to make a statement about life.
I have found that Mother Earth is forgiving. The Creator designed her to heal the wounds of neglect and abuse when we exchange them for care and concern. When I look out on a green field with cattle grazing and chickens scratching, I begin to understand that there are cycles in life that we all must live. There are the hard times of winter, the flush of spring, the heat of summer and the harvest of fall. There is beauty and danger in all of these seasons.
We live in the midst of challenging and dangerous times. Yet the farm speaks of steadfastness, perseverance and commitment. The land is my teacher, my healer and my source of pleasure. A farm properly managed is the greatest wealth producer in the world. What else can capture solar energy, turning it into grass and vegetables, which in turn, turn it into protein and carbohydrates? The farm economy is a wealth economy based in the harvest of renewable raw materials. That we must trade in an inflationary economy only emphasizes what is truly sustainable over what is merely illusory.
I find it amazing to watch people when they come for a farm tour. The things I take for granted are pure magic in the eyes of a child who’s never seen a baby chick or a parent who’s never seen a cow milked by hand. I am humbled to realize that I have every day what many people secretly long for: a solid connection with the land. That is why I farm.
Now, people are waking up all over America and realizing that the food we’ve been ingesting isn’t so good after all, the vacations we take just aren’t charging the batteries like they used to and — hey — isn’t there something more to life? Then the dream of life in the country takes hold and, though they’ve never raised anything in their lives, they buy a farmette in the country and begin a new course in life
All over suburbia, part-timers are growing exotic stuff and selling it at farmers markets, the roadside stand and, heck, right out the back door. A healthy sub-economy is being created that pumps cash back into the farm at retail level while providing wholesome, unprocessed food for neighbors and friend
The irony is, these new fangled farmers may be what saves farming in America
JJames Bourne farms at Sandy Hill Farm in Calvert County