Today I am feeling very grateful to my elders. I don't mean old people, I mean those who walked this path before me. Those who walked this path before I discovered it, who improved the trail, built the bridges, and made a map. Those who did all that so that they could use the trail, but then stayed to help guide me as well.
Farming is not an easy business. There is no kind of farming that is easy. Small-scale, sustainable, diversified farming is an especially difficult business. Not only are we growing food, but we are also trying to change people's minds, repair damaged ecosystems, alleviate climate change, build communities where they have been hollowed by the ravages of a capitalist economy that cares not for human lives, repair people's severed connections with the natural world ... In other words, there's a big load to carry. Maybe not all of my farming peers feel that this is their job description, but I do, and I often feel like I'm in the middle of the ocean riding on an inflatable pool toy. In this line of work, the community of fellow farmers is everything.
Today I had the pleasure of receiving knowledge and guidance from one of my elders, someone not so old in years but deep in his well of understanding. Sitting at his table, talking through what he has seen and what we are struggling with felt like climbing aboard a ship after being adrift in that ocean. There's hope. There are others feeling this way, others working through these problems, and workable solutions are attainable. We can succeed, and are not doomed to poverty and losing the farm and whatever other horrible fates visit my mind in the darkness of night.
I left his house feeling so flooded by gratitude, that he had spent so much of his valuable time - not just on us, mind you, he is a mentor, a guide on the trail, to an entire generation of farmers - to reassure us and to show us where to go and how to build something successful. Here is someone who understands what a community is. When one of us is raised up, it raises us all. A rising tide lifts all ships, if you have a ship. So help the others get a ship, too, or pull them on board yours.
Our mentor and his partner are exemplary in the community in their commitment to raising us all as they are raised, in distributing their earned knowledge as widely and as thoroughly as they possibly can. They are not the exception, though. I am so glad to be a member of a peer group that by and large views each other as co-conspirators rather than competitors. Our "competitors" are the industrial food system, human lethargy and ignorance about what we're doing to the world, and environmental degradation. Our fellow farmers are equally as important to our success as we ourselves are. I am glad to have been brought into farming by mentors such as these, who have gifted me with an abundance mindset, rather than a view of scarcity. See all that we have to work with - Sun, soil, water, flora, fauna, people with such towering gifts. Such a huge net of interactions to learn from, to draw on, to benefit from.
Spending time with mentors such as these helps me to re-center myself into a positive focus on the things that matter. We are here to grow life, to grow love, to leave things better than we found them. I only hope that, when given the opportunity, I offer similar help to those following me down the path.