Five Years Time

My new favorite band Noah and the Whale (a British Rock ‘n’ Roll quintet) play a song titled “5 Years Time.” I enjoy the tune for its honest approach to the brevity of most of our closest relationships. The song suggests that while our culture is adamant about loving hard and well, we are not so concerned with longevity. Through “5 Years Time,” Noah and the Whale highlight our ok-ness with moving from relationship to relationship, community to community. The song emphasizes our culture’s ever-on-the-move mentality where it’s hard to imagine today’s relationships withstanding five year’s time.

The culture this song describes isn’t something “out there” for me: the “close” friends I have today are not the ones I had just three years ago. A few of the friends from yesteryear moved and the miles put distance into our relationship. But others, nay, most, still live just down the street. Sure, I might be going to a different church now. They may have gotten married. Still others may have started more demanding careers. But I can’t help but remember that a mere three years ago all of us were “forever friends.” And today, well I might be lucky if I see them in the produce section of Whole Foods.

It seems, to me, the trend-words-du-jour like “community” and “authenticity” have made it all too easy for us to step into each other’s lives and build wells of connections. Conversely, our utmost preference for transience and novelty have made it even easier to fill in those wells with dirt and move on to new, not-yet-tasted springs of water.

As I read more and more books about farming, I’m touched by the necessity of being bound to the land you tend. And not bound for a season. Or a year. Or a decade. But for a lifetime. Good farming requires close study of the land, study matched equally with adaptation and persistence. In his 2004 essay titled “Renewing Husbandry,” Wendell berry calls the farmer’s study of the land husbandry. Berry writes:

“The word husbandry is the name of connection….Old usage tells us that there is a husbandry also of the land, of the soil, of the domestic plants and animals. To husband is to use with care, to keep, to save, to make last, to conserve….Husbandry is the name of all the practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world; it is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.”

Today I’m meditating on what it would look like to husband my relationships—to be intent on cultivating my connection with the people who sustain me in my day-to-day living for the long-haul…or at least five years time.

I Heart Jesus

I sincerely hope that this chronicle of my farming endeavors will interest a wide range of folks—people who may or may not believe or think the same things I do. The vision of This Beautiful Life, after all, is one of community. That being said, it’s always best to give context when sharing opinions and ideas in such a limiting medium like the Internet, especially when the topics at hand (food, farming, and faith as linked to community living) are ones intimately connected to individual beliefs and experiences.

At present, I am working as a graphic designer for the local park district while simultaneously running my own wedding photography business (Getting married? Hire me!). I live in a modest home (1920’s Chicago bungalow-style) with two other girls (both mid-twenties; one engaged, the other in a steady relationship) and my Great Pyrenees, Maggie. The town in which I live is often slated as a “wealthy, white, strongly evangelical suburb of Chicago,” but is in fact, a town presently undergoing enormous demographic changes with 1 in 3 individuals being a minority and growing numbers of individuals with a faith other than Christianity. And my own modest income puts me squarely below the poverty line, if you want to talk statistics. I’m just over 26.5 years old, very much a suburbanite, shop at J.Crew and Whole Foods, and love a good cup of Dean and Deluca coffee.

Politically, I identify myself as moderate, although I have conservative roots characterized by an ongoing adoration for George W. Bush. I grew up attending Lutheran churches, turned atheist in high school, and truly found Jesus (in what popular culture calls a “born-again” way) my freshman year of college in Boston. I ultimately graduated from a small, private Christian university in Illinois, and while I have lived in the west (Colorado), South (Alabama) and East (New Hampshire), I am a true Midwesterner at heart.

My passions stem from a deep-seated curiosity to know and to be known, with interests ranging from the history of marriage and gender studies to conflict-resolution in the Middle East. I test solidly as an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs personality assessment and really believe in the benefits of talking to a good therapist. My entertainment of choice tends toward films, not movies, or a good book on theology or art and India remains on the top of my dream-destination list.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of the fonts Zapfino and Papyrus. I find meat really gross, but eat it to be healthy. And I talk to my mom on the phone everyday.

And did I mention I heart Jesus?

Why Farming?

When people ask me why I have a sudden interest in farming, I generally give the reply “I dated a farmer and the interest in farming lasted longer than the interest in the farmer.” While I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it is true that an attractive boy is what first attracted me to farming.

This farmer was a bona-fide corn and soybean farmer from small-town Indiana. Our romance lasted just a short time, but long enough for me to get a rudimentary crash-course in the realities of the farming lifestyle. For me, meeting someone my own age who was a real farmer—one who owned land and spent days out in the tractor planting and harvesting corn—was a culture shock. Even more penetrating was the realization that seemingly “old-fashioned” ideas of bequeathing the family farm to the first-born son, the consequences of family inheritance feuds, and the ever-increasing cost of land are ongoing realities for hard working American farmers. In short, farming became a real occupation and farmers became real people to me after meeting and dating a farmer.

As I got to know a farmer and about the work he did, it didn’t take long for my ideas about food to change. All of a sudden, I began to wonder if I knew the person who had grown the corn in my corn flakes (highly unlikely, but still a possibility!). I began to consider the logistical gymnastics required for a mango to arrive fresh from the southern hemisphere in the middle of December to the local grocery store. I began to listen for agriculture news and read the “buy local” labels at Whole Foods a little more closely. I’ve never been much of a foodie, but all of a sudden “where food came from” became a BIG idea for me.

Other, small things, also brought my attention increasingly to the world of agriculture. I’ve heard missionaries say that when they received their calling to the field, God places specific locations on their hearts. God then confirms these destinations by little “signs”—the country is mentioned in the news, a story they hear from a friend, a native they suddenly meet. Similarly, the idea of “farmsteading” sprung into everyday normalcy after my initial encounter with a young farmer. For instance, I randomly stumbled on a www.centralvafarms.com and discovered that a house with land in and around Charlottesville, VA (absolutely stunning country, for those who haven’t been…) is actually quite affordable. I read an article in Vogue magazine while waiting for my tires to be changed, of all things, about a young writer-turned-farmer. I learned that the local park district rents garden plots for a mere $25 to residents, all of a sudden making it possible for me to start growing food of my own.

Clearly, agriculture/farming/gardening etc. was top-of-mind as I sought the Lord in giving a vision for life. To some, that may seem I simply grabbed at what was my most immediate and recent fascination. To me, though, the Lord laid these things in my path in His own timing, uniquely aware of their greater significance.

As I’ve meditated and prayed about this entire concept/endeavor, I’ve come to additional understanding and appreciation as to “why farming.” Kristin Kimball writes in her novel The Dirty Life, “I think that in some way, human begins are hard-wired to be agrarians. This is what most people in the history of the world have focused their energy.” It’s this realization, and appreciation for agriculture’s necessity and normalcy in human endeavor, that enchants me as I move forward.