Parable of the Citizen Farmer

basil-windowsil.jpgThe following is an excerpt from "Citizen Farmer: The Biodynamic Way to Grow Healthy Food, Build Thriving Communities and Give Back to the Earth" reprinted with permission from the author.

Here’s a simple exercise to try at your office. Find a sunny window that people pass by often. Place a basil plant of a ledge or a nearby desk. Watch what happens.

A scenario could go something like this: A colleague wanders by the plant and pauses to inhale the intoxicating aroma. She asks if anyone’s ever made pesto from scratch. Her desk-mate pipes up with his Italian grandmothers tried-and-true method from the Old Country. Later in the week, small jars of homemade pesto appear on everyone's desk. In time, that windowsill becomes crowded with other herb-filled pots. More stories are swapped, recipes shared, and gardening tips passed around.

Inspired, you try your hand at growing something edible at home. You start small, by planting a tomato and some herbs around your curbside mailbox. A dog-walker stops to chat as you're checking the mail, and instinctively you offer him a couple of beefsteaks and a handful of rosemary sprigs. The next day you find a basket of fresh eggs from his backyard henhouse on your front porch with a thank-you note.

The lady across the street observes the interaction and asks if you could use some of her excess zucchini. You propose a potluck dinner for all the gardeners on the block to share their abundance. At the party, a neighbor throws out the idea of turning the vacant piece of land at the end of the street into a community garden. You volunteer to seek permission from city hall to use that public land, and before you know it , it’s Saturday morning, and you and about fifty new friends of all ages are knee-deep in wood chips and compost.

Ideas and projects keep sprouting. You convince the PTA to start a schoolyard garden. You volunteer to help your church, mosque, or synagogue grow vegetables for its food pantry outreach program. You suggest planting herbs instead of annuals in those big planters on Main Street and maybe even starting an orchard in the park.

Through these volunteer efforts, your work skills develop, and you discover talents you never even knew you had. You feel happier and more invigorated than you have in years, and you find common ground with colleagues and neighbors you used to know only in passing. All because of that one little basil plant.

You do not need to trade in your urban clothes for overalls and move to the country to grow food. You don’t even need to own green space. Across the nation, organic growers and consumers are bound by a common striving to leave the earth the way we found it—certainly no worse, and preferably even better. Take part in a community garden. Join a Community Supported Agriculture farm and volunteer to help with the harvest. Shop at your local farmers’ market. Join a crop mob or another group of landless farmers who are lending their labor on weekends to farmers in need of helping hands.

This is what the “citizen farmer” movement is all about: taking actions that foster a healthier, more sustainable food system and passing on these values to the next generation. It is about honoring the place where you are now, believing in yourself and supporting others, sharing your wisdom and passion, and following your dreams. ...You [will] create abundance in your garden as well as in your personal and professional life. Whether you support the movement from your garden, kitchen, classroom, bathroom, or farmers’ market, I like to think of all of us as potential citizen farmers: each making a contribution to a better and more sustainable world.

citizen_farmers.jpgI am convinced that integrating agriculture—and the personal virtues it teaches—into everyday life builds strong and vibrant communities. I believe this so strongly that I have made it my life’s calling to cultivate as many citizen farmers as I can.  

TOP PHOTO: Published on Mother Earth Living 


Daron "Farmer D" Joffe is the founder of Farmer D Organics and the Director of Agricultural Innovation and Development at Leichtag Foundation Farm in Encinitas, California, where he lives with his wife and two children.

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