Community Efforts

I’m continuously amazed (and inspired) by the ways humans increasingly employ the internet to create community. Something that is inherently individualistic and solitary in its success to disengage you from your immediate surroundings and company paradoxically serves to connect us with the global scene and population. As I consider my own efforts to create community, I admit it is much easier for me to create and maintain a website (or a blog) than actually invite a friend over for brunch and let them know the real me.

But the world-wide web is a start, if nothing else, to finding community in the 21st Century. Here is a short list of some interesting cyber-spaces promoting ideas of real-space community. Click on any of the links to learn more about each concept.

WWOOF (or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) connects farmers with individuals interested in gaining real-world experience on working farms around the globe. Pay $30 and gain access to a complete listing of participating farms all across the United Statess.

Like WWOOF, FarmStayUS connects real farmers with real people interested in experiencing life on a farm. FarmStayUS differs in their appeal to individuals wanting a more relaxing approach to their farmstay, suggesting a new kind of “agritourism” for the adventuresome family.

Looscubes is a good attempt to provide community for solo-preneurs, artists, techies, financiers, and anyone else more accustomed to working at a desk 10 feet away from their bed through it’s database of workspaces around the world available for rent. Complete with the benefits of shared equipment costs and  water-cooler gossip, As someone who personally knows what it’s like to work alone and at home, Loosecubes offers a great alternative to the corner table at Starbucks.

Stonegate Farm, located in the Hudson Valley of New York, is the closest realization I’ve discovered to date of what I dream of creating someday. It’s a family estate farm dedicated to producing fresh salad greens, vegetables, berries and other artisan delicacies. What’s more, the owner is a renowned garden photographer and opens his farm to other artists for gallery shows, workshops, and garden tours.

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.