I Live In A FarmUNtopia

A great article in the May, 2015 Smithsonian magazine, “Welcome To Farmtopia” by Franz Lidz, gives yet another example of the legitimacy of the local food, backyard farm movement. I should be overjoyed since this sort of thing is what I’ve preached and predicted for 50 years. Farmtopia in this article features Serenbe, Georgia, one of the new homesite developments in the U.S. clustered around a farm instead of a golf course. The people who live in the houses volunteer to help with the farm work in return for sharing the food produced. So far, so good and I wish the project and others like it well. But I am not overwhelmed with optimism by this kind of farmtopia because I have lived too long and seen too many similar attempts fail. They mostly do not endure because they start with what I call “farming from on high.” Someone, usually rich and with great good intentions, sort of imposes or provides his or her idea of farming on a group of people. Projects like this tend to confuse someone’s idealism about farming with its realism. Developers of farmtopias first of all want to make money selling real estate. If they can do it by appealing to the latest trends, why not? But how often in my life have I watched publicly-inspired gardens laid out and planted with great fanfare in the spring turn into a jungle of weeds by fall.

If the new notion of local farming and food production is to endure, it must start with determined individuals willing to go through the hellfire of unpleasant physical work and low financial returns. The successful farmers and market gardeners I know would not believe they could afford to live in Serenbe, let alone want to farm there. Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, who calls himself an entremanure, was the first farm manager at Serenbe but has gone on to other things, as they say. He says in the article what I think: “A farmer wants to have equity and something to call his own.” Garden farming at best is not too profitable. You hang in there for other reasons. You are out there enduring low income and heat and bugs and bad weather because you want to have your own place in this crazy world and not have to be forced to listen to someone’s else’s music.

I prefer the realism of the farmUNtopia where I live to the idealism of farmtopia. My county, Wyandot in Ohio, is quite rural. The population hasn’t changed much since 1885. I came back here to live at great financial risk because I grew up here and like it, at least most of the time.


Read the full article at The Contrary Farmer


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