We try. But I won’t declare that we do the best job of caring for our land. You see, I know where the bodies are buried, the troublesome bits of erosion, the areas of overuse, diseased trees and neglected infrastructure. Yet, I won’t underestimate our hard work and successes at stewarding this small farm of seventy acres; a stewardship that hopefully leaves the land, upon our departure, in better shape than when we took up this way of life.
Nonetheless, we are both aware of the potential futility of these efforts in a world overburdened by population, climate change, resource depletion and the general collapse of good behavior. Even as I type these words I can view the hills, a mile in distance, denuded of trees from a poorly executed clear-cut, a process that is repeated up and down our small valley.
At times our farm seems an island in a sea of abuse. Small farms or small land ownership is no more immune to poor practice than the stewardship of large farms and tracts of land. Perhaps the small farm has a bit more flexibility; it is closer to the root of the problem and so can respond in real time. Like a small motor boat compared to an ocean liner it is more maneuverable. But it is no nobler, for its small size.
Orwell, in his book, The Road to Wigan Pier, makes a reference to small landlords being worse than a large landlord, based on their limited resources to improve their investments. Similarly, the small farm is just as subject to those market forces, the same drive to wring every bit of profit from the resources at hand, as the large farm. A sad play that has us repeating our role in the original sin where we short the future for a bite of an apple today.
That all leaves me, looking from my window, on this Sunday, thinking that this island, which is our farm, as already being lapped by those rising waters of our future.
Yet, we make our small efforts to stake a claim to an imaginable future that has room for well cared for small farms, families, and community on a healthy planet. To that end we gathered last night with area farmers for an evening of fellowship, food and conversation. To that end, today, we plant a new vineyard of wine grapes. And, to that end, our sow, Delores, farrowed last night.
To that end, that is the present and future as best as we can manage, for today.