To arrive at the place we are, where healthy food is so scarce it has become boutique fare, we have every expectation of both living over 80 years and at the same time being overtaken with heart disease, diabetes, alzheimers or some other compromising illness, and it seems likely that our children will be coping with environmental disasters and travesties that will consume the wealth of their generation if not their lives, where shall we look for hope?
It was not in the charter of the East India Trading Corporation, nor that of Standard Oil, nor Bank of America or Wal-Mart to make the world a better place. We live in a Corporate Age, (aka the Fossil-Fueled Epoch) where profit has inexplicably trumped all. Our priorities have been, by sleight of hand and self-deception both, inverted to our uncompromising detriment and the detriment of mankind and the planet as a whole. What an incredible accomplishment, truly that corporations now have the rights of individual human beings, without the liabilities or responsibilities. This of itself should be enough to scare us straight. But we are so overwhelmed, so wrought with inherited guilt, so bewitched and befuddled and bewildered by the racing, lightspeed world that we find ourselves in. We hardly have time to breathe, much less think or find time to fight the power or be the change. Our complicity is manyfold, wrapping us in cozy cliched convenience, soothing our second-guessing with cheap excess, numbing our consciences with opiate media, 401k’s for all who desire them, and little boxes made of ticky-tacky financed by inflated paper, paid for by cheap oil, financed by our taxes, mortgaged by the blood of our soldiers and the poor souls they are fighting, and advocated by our bought-and-paid-for Congress and all governments of the greater industrial world. It is truly unreasonable to expect to feel anything but the inevitability of our participation in the systems that surround us when we have been so passively invested, so thoroughly and for so long now.
But we get what we pay for. And that is the crux of the matter. We put our dollars to work whether we want to or not, as long as we’re spending. Whether in a checking or savings account, a 401k, or at the farmers market, the democracy of the dollar is in a way far more intact than our so-called democracy in government. As Woody Tasch so succinctly puts it:
Large industrial companies and multi-national corporations, and the mutual funds that invest in them, are too big, too diversified and too “tricky” for my taste, inevitably including commercial endeavors that are directly or indirectly at odds with my beliefs and hopes. This is not a wholesale indictment of these corporations or funds or the people who run them, some of whom are my friends. It is merely an acknowledgment of the realities of managing large pools of capital and using financial returns as the primary, universally applied, lowest common denominator metric, with social and environmental “metrics” as add-ons. And while the preceding few sentences are sure to ignite some vociferous objections from some of these same friends, I will merely add: Let’s spend less time with pro-Left or pro-Right arguments about the efficiency of capital markets or the efficacy of particular metric or certification regimes. And let’s devote more time to developing new flows of capital from and to the Radical Center.
Is there anything more deeply conservative and more deeply libveral than investing in small farms and local food systems? This is direct action. It is undiluted. It is not distorted by the gravitational pull of distant pools of capital. It is supporting local entrepreneurship and creating jobs that will not be exported. It connects us to our neighbors and builds community. It connects us to the soil.
If we are to find the path back to community, a grounding rod to our blazing technological arc, a homeplace for our soldiers, a culture of neighborliness for our headspun children, we must redirect our energy into our localities. Money is the most commonplace way that we pragmatize our energy. For the same reasons that I was brought into gardening and farming from a philosophical wormhole, food is such a simple and deeply encompassing avenue for renewing and re-orienting our cultural values. Whether simply for the health of the soil and water and our bodies, or at the more mouthwatering level of bringing higher taste to our palates, or the regenerative nature of gathering round the dinner table for our communities, it gets at the heart of matters from infinite angles.
From the beginning, Swallowtail has been a means toward this greater end on a personal level for me. It brings me into communion with the soil, gives me inherent satisfaction in the working of the land, happiness in providing better nutrition and a good life to my children and greater family, and gives me a place and a purpose in my community. These things are invaluable to me. And while the CSA has always been the mechanism through which we connect the ourselves and the farm to the community, and the community to food, and community investment to the farm and food, we have also always operated at a break-even level financially. In attempting to incorporate greater issues of educational opportunities, youth and food, and creating an open-source farm to serve as an practical incubator of better farming practices and entrepreneurial imaginations (farm dinners, festivals, flowers, etc.) we push the envelope of our budget and are constantly challenged to dig deeper to find a way to make these things happen on a shoestring. Now, we are attempting to bring our community into awareness of the possibilities that exist from the perspective of the investor when participating in our local economy. And in true grassroots fashion, we invite you to grow the grass and break the ground for building a new element of the farm, tying together good ol’ fashioned productivity (milk, cheese, yogurt, yummm) with ecological economies (manure, balance of annuals and perennials, carbon sequestration, etc) and an eye on the future of our role in the community as a true cornucopia for our people (a whole diet CSA, new opportunities for education around milking, animal stewardship, cheesemaking, intensive grazing, and more). Our Barnraising project has launched and is already gaining wonderful support and momentum, but it will not succeed without you! Find it on our homepage today to discover a new way to put your money to work for the good of your own community. I promise once this campaign is over (December 12) I will make no further solicitations, but I feel clear this is a worthy endeavor, and if it is to work, then I must do due diligence and spread the word.
This weekend we are hosting our 2nd Annual Swallowtail Farm Fall Festival. We are feeling blessed already that this cold is forecast to yield to warmth and sunshine on Saturday, and we anticipate having over 500 folks of all ages out to enjoy local music all day long (Wax Wings, GUTS, Ricky Kendall & the Healers, The Relics, Captive Eddies, and MSNRA), delish local food and libations, workshops (Beginning Beekeeping workshop with Celia and Ken Young, a Wild Foraging Walk with Mycol Stevens, an Intro to Solar Power with Wayne Irwin of Pure Energy Solar, a Fermentation Brewing workshop with Ahren Tsacrios of Wellspring Kombucha, a Pickling workshop with Van Tran & more), hayrides, and animal awesomeness, including a meet and greet of our 5 new piglets and Bessie and Rosanna, our new Jersey cows. Come warm your souls with some of the most creative elements of our community, and see the farm in it’s wintry glory.
With frosty fingers and warmest gratitude,