Archive for July, 2016

Beyond abstractions

July 14, 2016

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Too often, the things we consume yoke us to places and practices that we can’t see and would rather not think about.  We can feel powerless against the global supply chain and its insistence on profit through exploitation.  Sometimes the best we can do is purchase products that bear a label like “fair trade” or “organic.”  In our minds we can conjure up bucolic fields inhabited by cheerful creatures, but there is no real way for us to get beyond abstractions.

As beautiful harvests of delicious food have flowed forth under a conducive climate, I have found myself considering other—equally rewarding—yields of this CSA farm.  We have enjoyed some robust work crews this year, yet at times the adult workers are almost outnumbered by the collection of bright children.  Peals of laughter (and tears) ring out.  Games are played.  Work is played.  Discoveries are made.  The energy on the farm is palpably different.

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And it’s not just a playground.  The beets in the boxes are washed; you can’t see that they were washed by five-year old hands.  The garlic is distributed into each box; you can’t see it was the proud work of a three-year old.  This is neither a workplace nor a classroom either.  It’s inside and outside, muddy and dusty.  Attention spans go in and out.  Interests wax and wane.

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But there is no doubt that a valuable education is happening.  Where food comes from is not an abstraction.  Hard—but gratifying—work is not an abstraction.  Screens and boredom need not exist.

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To many in our society, the salient fact about food is its cost: the cheaper the better.  We have been taught that this is savvy shopping.  But the most important things you cannot quantify.  What is the difference between food produced afar by forced child labor and food produced right here where children happily dance between work and play, increasing the quantity of joy in the world?  Is cheap food worth cheapening the children of the world?  How many more cents per pound would you pay to know that your pennies were working to bind back together broken communities?

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This farming is not lucrative work, lucre-wise.  We struggle and we scrape.  But the rewards of this place on earth pile up: the steadfast friends, the redeemed soil, the fences and buildings, the bounty of food, the family, the nourishing and nurturing of community and children.  We have a humbling wealth of good people buoying us and making us more.

Having been greatly privileged, we accept with honor sweat and aching backs, our hearts hurting for those who have not gotten the breaks and those who are nearly broken.  There is an awful lot of work to do, so we are plugging ahead here at a place on earth and inching forward.

 

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