Good Farming Means More Than Good Food


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From GENE LOGSDON

​Some 19,000 people die in traffic accidents every year and another two million are seriously injured. If death rates like this happened in any other sphere of activity, society would be rising up in holy wrath but travel is the most sacred part of our culture and any effort to diminish it significantly is not about to happen. Nor is it just a problem of modern technology. Take away cars and planes and the roadways would pulsate again with the thundering hooves of horses and runaway stagecoaches. Hi ho Sillllllver.

But small scale farming provides a way of life that decreases traffic automatically. If you own animals, you must stay home most of the time whether you want to or not. When crops need planting or harvesting, you had better be there. Nature waits on no man, and very few women. I suspect that most small, caretaker farmers have chosen their way of life because they don’t really like to travel anyway and can use their farms as a legitimate excuse for their sinfulness. I know there are thousands of people out there traveling to make a living who dream and plan for the day they can get a piece of land of their own and stay home. It would really be interesting to know how many traffic deaths and injuries would be avoided if they all could realize their dream.

Farmers who can’t or won’t cruise the highways in search of happiness learn the art of travelling at home, as Wendell Berry puts it in a poem by that name. When your focus on the world is honed down to your own piece of land, every walk across it reveals something new or different. You don’t miss not travelling. Your homeland is far more exciting than visiting the Grand Canyon. As your observations and knowledge of your land deepen, the more there is to see and be astonished by. Walking through the woods to the barn every day for forty years, I have walked all the way to California and back twice and yet I see something a little different, a little changed, a little more mysterious or intriguing every time. As Wendell puts it: “Even in a country you know by heart/ it’s hard to go the same way twice.”

​Travelling at home, a farmer turns his land into his playground and in so doing not only saves a lot of lives by staying off the highways, but a lot of money on vacation spending. During my growing up years on the home farm, we rarely went anywhere outside the county but the number of vacation pastimes we found right on the farm was remarkable. Our creek and pond and surrounding hillsides and woodlands were our vacationland: fishing, swimming and wading in creek and pond; rafting and boating; trapping fur bearing animals; hunting for Indian artifacts; collecting “pretty stones” and mussel shells out of the creek; having our own hockey rink on the pond and ball diamond on the pasture; cliff climbing on the taller creek banks; molding pottery out of a blue clay deposit in the creek bed; jumping up and down on the rolls of old wire fencing in the trash pile— our substitute for a trampoline; digging through generations of old bottles and pottery under the rolls of old fencing; sledding on the hills along the creek; digging caves where the snow drifted deeply on the hillsides; burning buckeyes in bonfires so they popped like firecrackers; pretending that big, fallen trees were pirate ships; building waterwheels in the creek; soaring out over the creek on a swing Dad hung from a tree on the bank; foraging for hickory nuts and wild berries; hunting morel mushrooms, squirrels, groundhogs, and rabbits; playing archeologist as we excitedly unearthed strange dinosaur bones sticking out of the creek bank that turned out to be a sheep skeleton; hours racing toy boats in the creek current; playing cowboy on the hillsides with make believe and then real horses.

​The joys of travelling at home do not of themselves reveal the really important advantage that landownership provides human society. History has shown time and again that as the number of people who own their own farms and gardens increases, the stronger democracy grows. Contrarily, the more land falls into the hands of the wealthy few, the more democracy dwindles. If the trend toward more small, artisanal garden farms continues, the more it not only means saved lives and good food but saved freedom and good government.
~~

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20 Comments

I was lucky to have travelled to other countries when I was young, and realized quickly that people are pretty similar, most places I went, to the people I grew up around. Most people were nice, and some weren’t so nice. I learned early what I didn’t know about where I lived: the history, the animals that lived around me, and the critters that were just passing through. Some of my favorite adventures have been on my tricycle, and I learned to take my binoculars and camera so I could bore my friends with my discoveries. I think Robert Fulghum said it best: most important word in the English language is “look”.

Oh, and then in the 6th century BC, in Tao Te Ching it said:

“People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.”

As much as I love my farm, I still enjoy travelling. I still appreciate seeing different places despite my love & contentment ofmy little spot of ground. Leaving, then returning only makes me appreciate my woods more. Problem is finding a caretaker!!

Mr. Logsdon, I wanted to send you a note to let you know that I greatly appreciate your work. I am a 30 year old from beautiful Brown County, Ohio currently serving in the Army. I married right out of college to my high school girlfriend and, over the past eight years in the Army, we have had two children (one more on the way), lived in five houses in four different states, and spent more time apart than we like to acknowledge. Your blog entry this week hits home for me as I travel frequently for my current Army job and I have discovered that I don’t much care for living out of airports and hotels.

In the last two years I have read seven of your books and the one I enjoy the most is “You Can Go Home Again.” I greatly value time with my family and small town life and your writing provides motivation and encouragement to me as I plot my course back home. I am excited to raise my children near their extended family and allow them to experience the small-farm life that I had growing up. Besides, with two young boys and a third child on the way, I have my farm hands lined up for the next couple decades. Thank you for what you do.

Gene, what fabulous memories you bring back to thought! I’m a stay home gardener who wanders across less than 12 acres .but my days are filled to the brim. If the world would stand still long enough to see what lies within their reach people wouldn’t need to be beating down a path to Walmart.

I agree with the others Gene,this is you at your best.How many of today’s kids will do one tenth of the things you listed?I live in a suburban area and when i talk in the breakroom with some of the older people i work with about my parents growing up on a farm or even some of the things i have done hunting and fishing,backpacking and exploring,the young people just look at me with a mixture of amazement and horror like i was a caveman who just came out of time warp!

Well, you may not realize it but you’re traveling north a tad like it or not.. According to the “Lifestyle” article on harlanhubbard.com, you’re a Michigan author. Then again, relative to some of the political statements in the past weeks and considering you’re not really that far, maybe we can accept it.

Think you nailed it,at least for me anyway.Why would I go on ‘vacation’ when just about every day on my farm is a vacation for me in some way.Simple things like going to cut a load of firewood turns into an excursion watching the huge woodpeckers,seeing my goats and cattle from afar and from a different direction than normal.Getting the satisfaction of getting my Winter’s heat off my farm,enjoying watching the seasons change,enjoying my view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.Just being able to travel the same paths thru the mountain on my place as my great grandfather did all give me great satisfaction I have no desire to
‘get away from’

There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…

Thanks, Gene, for poetically taking me back to the only trips I took as a kid: to the outhouse, and it was always an adventure.

Gene, I wouldn’t wish the Presidency on my worst enemy, let alone a good person such as you. It’s the old Catch-22. We don’t want a crazy person in that Office and only a crazy person would want it. And there is a surplus of crazy out on the ole campaign trail.

As for travel, we are busting butt to get to the day where the longest trip would be to the feed mill about seven miles distant. We also think the best best trip is to the porch. The woods behind the house are a Motel Six for migrating vultures and watching 50 or more swooping down into the tree tops more than makes up for the lack of TV. Life is on the doorstep!

Brussell sprouts are really good this year. Yum!

Exactly! The best vacation for me is dragging my chair to a different point (of view) on the homestead and just pasture-izing with a journal or notebook from that vantage point. But then I have traveled a bit and know what I am NOT missing. I do think young folks need to venture out–to learn about the bigger world. It’s the old theme of going off in the world to be able to come home and really appreciate it. When young people look at us oldsters sitting in our chairs firmly planted on our own porches, they sometimes feel sorry for us. Once they get out and about and come home to themselves, they will get it.

Dang it, Gene, you’ve packed more good ideas into this post than most of us usually have in a decade. Logsdon for President!!

My dad (in Soviet land) always said Soviets confiscated everyone’s land and farms to break people’s spirits, resilience, community and roots. Once you have done that, you got easy time to control the minds.

Gene, speaking about buckeyes in bonfires, have you ever tried bamboo?

You and your mind are remarkable. I am always informed and entertained by you. This post is one of your best. Touching someone’s heart is always powerful. Thank you. Natalie.

Gene, since you’ve “retired” why dont you run for president? I’d vote for you.

May you never go the same way twice, Gene. Many blessings to you.

In your last paragraph I might substitute “a strange lack of separation between themselves and the land” in place of “landownership” – it isn’t really a “knowing” or an “understanding” that I’m talking about though, just a lived experience. A blessed lived experience.

Preach to the choir my brother, and remind us to practice this chorus over and over!

Gene, thanks as always for an interesting post.

I think that your numbers for traffic fatalities are a bit on the low side. Wikipedia claims that for 2013 (the most recent year for which they have data, apparently), there were more than 32 thousand traffic-related deaths in the US. Not as many as in the early 1970s (50K plus per year)… but still an awful lot.

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