Garden Politics (or: What’s up with tiny farming?)

In order to tiny farm, you have to learn stuff. I taught myself. And when you start down that road to self-education, there’s no set course—you can’t really choose what you run into!

In my first couple of years of tiny farming, nearly six years ago, along with lots of stuff about seed depth, soil temperature, and how far apart to space plants in a row, I also learned about Big Agriculture—industrial farming in all its rather stunning glory. I followed the history of “life sciences” corporations like Monsanto, gained a general understanding of how genetically modified crops work, consumed more than a fair share about factory farming, agricultural pollution, land-gobbling, gas-guzzling mechanization…the list goes on and on. Still, all of this was book-and-TV knowledge, nothing first hand, the kind of mega-trivia that may shock, but doesn’t really STICK. Meanwhile, in the field, growing food not just for myself, but for OTHERS, for paying customers, IS a real, ongoing education… So, the two worlds: Big Ag hovering all around, and me in the tiny field, and not much connecting the two on the day-to-day…

I started this tiny farming blog in earnest about a year ago, with the clear idea that it was simply about my gardening efforts, about growing stuff. I didn’t begin with a cause or a philosophical platform. I wasn’t blogging with any audience in mind, it was just a personal field journal, available online, and as such, there was no central spot for politics. So I thought…

Anyhow, via a blog comment, I’m right now online, watching a documentary on Monsanto that was released in France just last month (Mar-2008). So far, it’s told me nothing I wasn’t aware of already (from my earlier self-schoolin’). But it brought to the front of my mind thoughts that are always bubbling. At this point, it seems to come down to one big question:

  • Why am I doing what I do?

Well, that’s all I have for this page at the moment… :) I’ll keep it published to encourage myself to see if I have anything useful to say. Maybe it’ll sit here, further untouched. Maybe I’ll just Unpublish it after a while…

We’ll see!

Additions, notes

Tiny Farm Experience: This season (2008), in conversation, I came up with a phrase: the “tiny farm experience.” In the original context, it was meant as a kind of, well, excuse, for including more personal observations in field conversations. I said something like, “Well, maybe this is all too…personal, STILL, it’s also all part of the tiny farm experience! Whether I’m thinking about crops or thinking about the price of oil in China, or why and how we come to trust people, or WHATEVER, it’s all part of my farming life. It’s all part of the farming.” By extension, TFE means that ANYTHING that affects or goes through the farmer’s mind and life is LITERALLY 100% part of…farming. Of course, that’s a little extreme, and to be taken with a pinch of…dark humor. Still, there you have it: the Tiny Farm Experience, an all-inclusive package!

“Your actions stand over you, speaking so loudly, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” Or something like that, an unidentified quote…

“They’ll never do worth a damn as long as they’ve got two choices.” From an old (1970s) Wendell Berry interview, he ascribes it to a friend of his, an old farmer down the road.

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