Recently, I was sitting with another friend who was bemoaning how he didn’t like his job. The pay is good, the hours are fine, the benefits are great, but he doesn’t feel alive when he works. He wonders how much longer he can do the thing that he does - upon which the rest of his life is built. And this friend has options, lots of options.
The longer I am exposed to the life of of a farm, the more I realize how much of our lives gets broken up into tiny little pieces. These silos of decision-making often make things much easier to dissect. We enjoy breakingthese pieces down so much that sometimes we forget that we are not a series of disconnected computer chips merely performing a variety of tasks, but rather a whole human being - made up of millions and billions of interconnected parts. Our life full of “industries” - how we acquire food, health, wealth, jobs, entertainment, and even education - enjoys working with all of these little pieces.
Take for instance, all of the following assumptions - that you and I generally agree upon daily.
Education happens in school.
Mental health happens in counseling.
Work happens at our job.
Worship happens on holy days or times.
Death happens at a funeral home.
Economy is what happens in the marketplace.
Ecology is about trees and water and wilderness.
Play happens when we are being entertained.
While this system may appear to be the one that has existed since the dawn of time, it is actually quite new. For many people, throughout much of history, the lines between work, food, nature family, play, ritual, and worship were not as clear and defined as we like them. When people ate from the land, lived on the land, and had to “slow down to the speed of their senses”, life was hardly broken up into the categories that you and I daily live from.
Interestingly enough, a farm is often where these lines and distinctions begin to cease. Where work, economy, food, family, nature and death all intermingle, dancing together without being shy about their differences. A farm has no corner offices, no exclusive membership, no walls, and it doesn’t consider the CEO more important than the shoeless child running around with a mud-smeared face.
It is where a grown man has fun while pruning tomatoes even though he is accomplishing something.
Where a begrudging teen finds themselves wishing they could plant just one more bed because they like talking with their peers in the sunshine during their school day.
It is where the best meal you have ever is also the cheapest as you picked it from the tree and it comes with messiness of peace juice dripping down your chin.
It is precisely at these moments that our silos began to break down. That we begin to realize that life is not a series of disconnected and compartmentalized activities, but rather that it is a whole human experience - waiting for us to dive in.
Sometimes individuals make the mistake of imagining that our work about Urban Roots is about food. A place where food is produced to be sold on the marketplace at the market rate.
What these same individuals miss is that we believe fully that growing food can be work, pleasure, economy, health, and spiritual all at the same time. And while it is, very much about food, to assume it is predominately about food is no more naive than to assume that a symphony is only about the violin solo. Of course it is. And yet, the symphony of life and activity that is cultivated at a farm is much richer than the simple act of just growing food could ever be.
That is why we do it.
This is the farm life.