Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nourish New Haven

Below is the schedule and a story about a recent event at which I spoke - along with Severine of The Greenhorns - about a new national initiative I'm involved with called The New Agrarian Network. Along with talking about that organization's main concerns - namely, land reform and access for the next generation of American farmers and ranchers - I also had fun presenting some of the research from my dissertation in conjunction with a recent SuperBowl ad (link below to commercial). It was an exciting and inspirational group of folks, whom I hope to see again soon!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sayings of the Old

One of them said of mules: A creature willing 
To labor for you patiently many years,
Just for the privilege to kick you once.

Few men are good as their fathers, said another,
And most are worse, in the entropy of time,
Though some have said, My child----I am well traded!

One I know said to his son, So now we see you
On television: you're a celebrity now----
But then, you've been a celebrity all your life.

Something inside them, patient as a mule
That pulls the plow of being through decades,
Has watched the stalks of fashion rise and fall.

"Celebrity" May have meant "I think my wife
Always has treated you as better than me."
The Ibo say, An old man sitting down

Can see more things than a young man standing up.
But sooner or later, the mule kicks all alike:
The young the old, the stalks of crops and weeds.

One hates the sanctimonious Buddha-goo
But loves to meditate. To think one word
And the breath balanced on its floor of muscle

Falling and rising like years, The brain-roof chatter
Settling among the eaves. All falling and rising
And falling again in the calm brute rhythm of hooves. 

--- Robert Pinsky

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Song in a Year of Catastrophe

I began to be followed by a voice saying:
"It can't last. It can't last.
Harden yourself. Harden yourself.
Be ready. Be ready."

"Go look under the leaves,"
it said, "for what is living there
is long dead in your tongue."
And it said, "Put your hands
into the earth. Live close
to the ground. Learn the darkness.
Gather round you all
the things that you love, name
their names, prepare
to lose them. It will be
as if all you know were turned
around within your body."

And I went and put my hands
into the ground, and they took root
and grew into a season's harvest.
I looked behind the veil
of the leaves, and heard voices
that I knew had been dead
in my tongue years before my birth.
I learned the dark.

And still the voice stayed with me.
Walking in the early mornings,
I could hear it, like a bird
bemused among the leaves,
a mockingbird idly singing
in the autumn of catastrophe:
"Be ready. Be ready.
Harden yourself. Harden yourself."

And I heard the sound
of a great engine pounding
in the air, and a voice asking:
"Change or slavery?
Hardship or slavery?"
and voices answering:
"Slavery! Slavery!"
And I was afraid, loving
what I knew would be lost.

Then the voice following me said:
"You have not yet come close enough.
Come nearer the ground. Learn
from the woodcock in the woods
whose feathering is a ritual
of the fallen leaves,
and from the nesting quail
whose specking makes her hard to see
in the long grass.
Study the coat of the mole.
For the farmer shall wear
the greenery and the furrows
of his fields, and bear
the long standing of the woods."

And I asked: "You mean a death, then?"
"Yes," the voice said. "Die
into what the earth requires of you."
Then I let go all holds, and sank
like a hopeless swimmer into the earth,
and at last came fully into the ease
and the joy of that place,
all my lost ones returning.

- Wendell Berry, Farming: A Handbook

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

National Agricultural Commons

"Most of feudalism’s overt abuses had now ceased. But the remainder represented unaccountable control over other people’s lives and a steady transfer of wealth from poor to rich in rent or fees....even in the cities, where people suffered from an often-fractured sense of identity and their feelings of powerlessness led them to accept poor governance as a norm. Taking on landlordism by setting up [a]…Trust, then, would be a symbolic work.  It would send out signals aimed at a wider transformation, connected as it was to a sense of belonging and the human ‘claim of right’—the right to freedom…The authority structures that held it all in place might resemble a fortress; in certain ways, some of which were not to be underestimated, they were a fortress.  But in other ways they were just eggshell.  Yet as long as that eggshell remained painted with iron bars, it could imprison oppressor and oppressed alike…

It was therefore going to mean engaging power…the whole corpus of landed interests…It would mean drawing presumed authority structures into question and helping to build an exciting and sustainable alternative...And just look at what, in the case of landlordism, the alternative could be. With community ownership, security and commonwealth could become the core values rather than profit and domination. Rents and other revenues could support infrastructure rather than subsidising the idle mores of the rich. People could recover an authentic sense of connection with place and therefore have a framework in which to cultivate responsibility."

                                        - Alastair McIntosh, Scottish activist, ecologist, writer, and bard                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Monday, February 11, 2013