I’ve been doing a lot of Googling / Internet perusing of “farm blogs” lately, which is perhaps a sign that I’ve either lost my mind or really need a life, or both; but according to my (not-so-extensive) research, I have found that despite the flood of Blogspot and Wordpress posts on chicken eggs and homemade marmalade, there are very few sites in existence that truly capture my inner blogger’s fancy. Many blogs are informative, and some border on beautiful, but I have yet to find one that is humorous, aesthetically charming, and most of all, honest about what it means to grow food in our era.
I’m not judging the farming world out there, of course - I associate this lack of decent agrarian blogs with the fact that most farmers are spending all of their time actually farming, as opposed to spending hours constructing prose on said farming. I respect this deeply. What good farmer has time to be finicky with tricky Wordpress layouts and photo edits when there are chickens to feed, cows to milk, irrigation hoses to fix, frost cloth to cover the strawberry beds? Ain’t no one got time for that. A farm demands constant attention, planning, awareness. A good farmer’s head is not in the clouds, nor lost in the rabbit hole of blogs. A good farmer is focused, and satisfied by their bountiful harvest, happy creatures, healthful foods, and revitalized patch of land.*
Me, on the other hand, sensing this great void on the Internet of baller farm blogs - and under the perhaps misled belief that there is great need for them - have come to the egotistical conclusion that we at Swallowtail must start one. Today, in fact. A blog with recipes, how-to’s, info on growing food, thoughts about the food movement; a blog about fire ants, brassicas, baby cows, and funky farmers; and most of all, a blog with stories from life on a farm, the funny and sad and slow and fast and confounding stories. Life on the farm is rich, contrasting, inspiring, complex, and simple all at once. Good writing material is infinite.
I feel conflicted, though. (As always. I yearn for the day I feel no conflicts.) First off, I feel somewhat uneasy writing about little things on a small farm amidst many colossal current happenings in the world. The presidential election. ISIS, gun law reform. Black Lives Matter, climate change, ocean acidification, California droughts… David Bowie… the list of mega-important things in news we should focus on could go on and on. Writing about farm life – snipping flowers, digging dirt, cooing at the birds, etc – could feel to others (I hate to say this, but it’s true) like trivial matters.
But more than this, I’ve been feeling more and more turned off by social media and the effect it has on me (and others); turned off by the self-promotional and self-involved nature of things like Instagram, and almost disgusted by the way that social media has allowed the glorification of alternative lifestyles, particularly the inundation of young, wealthy, predominantly white people posting photos of their adventures and travels, and quotes about finding your dream, living life to the fullest, and being free of normal-person obligations.
The thing about posts on blogs and Instagram and Facebook and everything in-between is that they usually exist to benefit the person who posted it, not for the people looking at it. There can be an overlap between the two, but so much of our social media outreach is a way to validate our own efforts, not to actually inspire others. Look at how beautiful my world is. Look at how much fun I’m having. Look at how successful my ventures are. It’s impossible not to compare yourself, and that only leads to unhealthy sentiments, and feeling smaller in the world.
There are certainly more farmers turning to social media to connect with the outside world for marketing purposes, which is beneficial; but I also believe farmers (as well as everyone else) use it for some sense of fulfillment. And that, I think, can be dangerous. It is positive to receive awed and impressed feedback from outsiders on your hard work and creations, and great to exchange recipe ideas with the food we grow; but there is a line somewhere buried in the digital blur that separates that positivity with the negative implications of needing social media for validation. And there is a bold line between glorifying and romanticizing a lifestyle, and being honest about it.
Hence my conflicting feelings. But in the end, I feel it would be an injustice to hide the wealth of stories and information here out of fear that sharing them is trivial and/or egocentric; and my desire to start a farm blog really stems from my desire to exchange knowledge and stories about food and agriculture with others, to engage in more dialogues about these issues that are at the core of our health and quality of life, and ultimately to inspire anyone who hasn’t farmed or gardened to grow their own food. That is what social media does at its best – allows for a more informed, inspired, and healthy society. Social media shouldn’t make people feel small; it should make people feel empowered.
So here we go. One thousand words later I am here to write that Swallowtail is starting a farm blog. Part of it will contain the writings from Noah’s poetic newsletters, and part of it will contain my posts, and hopefully at some point I will convince more of my farmin’ peeps that this is a worthwhile effort, and you will hear the voices of everyone here. And I urge YOU to partake in these posts in any way you can – comments, emails, conversations. “Food should be uniting,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Let’s make it so.
*Note: I actually don’t believe this at all. A good farmer is much more complex. The farmers here present evidence for this themselves: Noah writes a weekly essay for our CSA members and poetry and music etc; Mariana keeps a lovely blog about flowers and initiates artistic videos and photo-shots; Emily consistently designs beautiful posters and cards; and Joelle has crafted impeccable knives, axes, succulent bracelets, turkey feather earrings, and a tiny house since I’ve been here in the past four months. All of them are incredible farmers, and show dedication to expressing their artistic inclinations inspired by agrarian life.