Back to the Land

I grew up in the era of back to the land, and there was never a home that we rented when I was a child that didn’t end up with a greenhouse, extra tree (or three), and a garden space. As an adult, I stumbled upon the concepts of permaculture and regenerative agriculture and was gobsmacked by the beauty and possibility inherent in their methodologies. Gobsmacked too, because I didn’t know anything about these movements, and I am a crunchy kinda gal. If I didn’t know, who else didn’t know?

The concepts are different but come together in several ways. Permaculture is more forest-based, and emphasizes building out in zones from your living space. Regenerative agriculture is more farm-based, commercial level production. Both emphasize observation of nature, water management, biodiversity and actively improving the soil. They also require more hands-on management than modern agriculture. They emphasize thoughtful stewardship of the land and resources available in your particular microclimate.

There’s so much beauty to discuss, let me hit the high points and then delve. 1) These management techniques can change the land within a decade and transform it within a generation. You don’t need a group to go after this change, you can do it on one farm, or one homestead. You can produce a positive change, and a radical positive change. You have the power to return health to the land itself. 2) Biodiversity – the more research is done, the more each part of the native landscape turns out to bring something positive to the table. The simple book “Roses Love Garlic” is only a beginning – it’s everything from taproots to beneficial insect habitat to soil nutrition… plants are made to work in concert, and the concert is beautiful. 3) Stewardship – man’s hand on the soil, on the animals, turns out to be broadly necessary. As much as permaculture focuses on least-effort, there is always more to be done, more to be tweaked. This opens up opportunity to (literally) go back to the land and make a good living and steward the soil. (Turns out these “inefficient” systems produce a lot of food – they just don’t monocrop).

We’re sold such a bill of goods that what is now – the mess that is now – is something we’re stuck with. Or if we aren’t stuck with it forever, we’re stuck with it until some government someone comes out with a plan for all of us. Blech ewwie. That’s demoralizing. Modern back-to-the-land says that we can make the difference, each on our own property, and then our success will inspire others to make similar changes. Inspire don’t require – I may take that as a buzzphrase. Who wants RULES? People who do permaculture don’t want RULES. They want to play in the garden and make good things grow and experiment and mess about and learn and glory in the world around them. But that play can – and does change the world, and does it within years.

I love the natural world, and learning about how created things work together to produce goodness makes my heart sing with joy. We know how wolves move rivers, but appreciating the roadside flowers for more than their smiling faces, appreciating the ruminants for helping trap carbon as well as loading our dinner plates and warming our backs, appreciating the flying critters for more than just delicious honey… oh every bit of knowledge brings joy. That joy multiplies and multiplies, and what was a canvas of a single color becomes a kaleidoscope in motion. How can this but bring more love for the land, for our Creator, for the art of the farm?

Modern agriculture looks to efficiency, to getting man away from the soil. But the heart of a farmer is with the soil, with the animal. There is a love for the earth, both generally and for that bit under their feet. One of the great tragedies of this moment in time is the aging out of the average farmer – but there are new farmers coming back, and those farmers are doing things differently. (I could write you a paper about the tragedy, and when this is a book, I will do at least a page or so, but not today). Those farmers are making a living, where the modern farmers were forced to bankruptcy (oh the lies they were told!). Those farmers are making soil, where the ones before them were resigned to its loss. Most humans have this love of the earth within them, most of us came from farm stock, whether that was one generation away or five. With regenerative agriculture, with permaculture, we have a chance to go back to the land with healing hands – and that heals something within our hearts.

Change is coming, and every one of us can be a part of that change. Each in her own way, we can bless the earth that we stand on. How can that not bring you joy?

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