Paradigm Shift

Transitioning from my previous occupation and lifestyle to restorative, eco-friendly, and sustainable farming affords me time to think and ponder upon a great many things that heretofore the harried pace of my life did not grant. Recently I saw the following post on Growtest.org, which sent my mind racing, contemplating the evolution of my complete paradigm shift, my personal Revolution which began nearly a year ago:

A line also recently gripped me from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: “What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing? Every living thing must grow. It can’t stand still. It must grow or perish.” I now recognize the next step in this restorative journey is not merely the act of defiance and or protest against what James Corbett dubs “the powers that should not be”, but instead it is to build and demonstrate a model, a new paradigm- one infused with liberty and abundance- that serves as a beacon of hope for the present and the future. So much time, energy, and resources are wasted upon the halls of political offices. It’s time to instead build a permanent culture that stands in stark contrast to the geopolitical paradigm currently holding a death grip on the masses. Instead of a consumer/debt based paradigm where only goods and services are valued, there is an alternative wherein perennial ecosystems, and the restoration thereof, are the key to our continued existence upon this planet. Such radical thoughts are the seeds of hope for this eco-economy based in permaculture design.

To give you a flavor of what in the world I’m ranting about, check out the below links, podcasts and videos. I want to give full credit to their creators, so please, on the first link below go to Geoff Lawton’s new website, and watch the video “How to Survive the Coming Crisis”. You may be asked for your email address, but this is only to keep updated on the latest videos he produces in the series- it’s free, and well worth the time investment to watch. You’ll see many of the projects Geoff has or currently is working on; you’ll see him literally turn a desert into a lush, fertile, green, and flourishing ecosystem. It’ll blow your mind!  Here’s the link:

http://www.geofflawton.com/fe/32461-surviving-the-coming-crises?r=y

Also, please take time to listen to the podcasts available at Permies.com . Below is a series of podcasts featuring Geoff Lawton:

Spreading Permaculture with Geoff Lawton Part 1

Spreading Permaculture with Geoff Lawton Part 2

Additionally, if you’re feeling inspired, here’s one of Geoff’s TED talks:

I also found another documentary produced by John D. Liu concerning large scale ecosystem restoration projects, and the “Greening the Desert” project you’ll see/hear Geoff Lawton refer to. Check it out, this is AWESOME stuff:

Last but not least, here’s another great talk given by Mark Shepard at the Acres USA conference I attended last November. It’s longer than the above videos and podcasts, but Mark brings clarity and humor as he lays out a model for restoration agriculture and applying real-world permaculture:

There’s so much information available now concerning permaculture design- from full scale ecosystem restoration to natural building structures, like straw bale homes– and this is my attempt to spread the knowledge to you in hope that it begins shifting your paradigm. It’s hard to listen to and watch this stuff and not be inspired to change! This is an issue that affects every single living organism on the face of our planet- it’s time we start paying attention and taking action. I am, are you?

Thanks for reading!

Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici

(“By the power of truth, I while living have conquered the universe“)

Farming Is Not A Job

As my family and I now enter our third week in our new role as farm manager and marketing directors for J&L Green Farm, I realize in a visceral sense that farming is not a job. Farming is a commitment; it is a lifestyle. Other “jobs” typically require a person to punch the clock, work 8 hour shifts, and then go home. Comparatively, the farm is not only  where we live, it’s how we live. It is a lifestyle we have committed ourselves to. Unlike the human “cubicle farms” of the corporate world, we work with biological organisms, which cannot be neglected. A computer can be left to work on tomorrow, next week, or even later, but if we neglect our critters that long, well, it won’t end nicely. We don’t dread the work week, or watch the clock. We work until the job gets done, and then we look for another one. We wake the sun up in the morning, and tuck it in at night. Always vigilant, always paying attention to what we aren’t paying attention to (think about that).

We love the farm, and we desire to become native to the land- to have intimate familiarity with it and the critters who call it home. As Mark Shepard wrote, “Restoration agriculture is a massive-scale culture-wide adjustment to ecological reality that will create a new economic and social reality.”

Happy eating! Happy farming!

Libertas lux et veritas

Edinburg Here We Come!

The below is adapted from my journal. Thanks for reading!

I wanted to get all of this out on paper in order to keep everything straight as our story unfolds. Lena and I have been married now for eight and a half years. We’ve had our share of struggles and joys in the quest to find our niche in life, individually and as a couple. Married young, worked a string of jobs, found direction only to lose it again, a single word describes us: unconventional. Last year, 2012, marked a significant paradigm shift in our lives. Lena and I were both in MBA programs, I was working full-time at Liberty University, she was working full-time with our one year old son at home, Titus. As spring approached giving way to summer, we were languishing. Due to my terrible work schedule we’d had little chance as a couple to really connect with anyone, which virtually isolated us in a town with no family and virtually no friends, offering no support to first-time parents, especially Lena on her own for 10(+) hours every day with Titus. There were countless days I’d come home and Titus would already be in bed (not a family friendly lifestyle)–then the real fun began, homework assignments that often left Lena and I up working until three and four o’clock in the morning! Something needed to change.

In the midst of it all, I applied at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to be a student in their MSc Classics program. I was fully accepted in August for the 2013-2014 school year, and simultaneously was a U.S. Fulbright research grant candidate. At the time of my acceptance, we also began looking into a unique farming operation called Polyface Farms, started by Joel Salatin. I had heard this man interviewed nearly two years prior on a morning news program, but didn’t fully grasp or appreciate all he had to say at that point. As fate, or we’d say Providence had it, we visited his farm in June 2012 and even purchased a couple of his books. One was a how-to book on sustainable farming and the potential white collar income it can generate, and the other detailed how farms could be family friendly even healing to the practical and spiritual needs of the family. These two books sparked a complete paradigm shift that would soon unfold in our lives.

We decided to leave Lynchburg at the beginning of November 2012 to temporarily live with family back in WV. This would be a way for us to have quality time with them, and for Titus to get a big dose of grandparents and aunties before potentially moving overseas for an extended period of time. Although the opportunity to study at one of the premier institutions of the world would seem an incredible opportunity, which it is, we as a family still struggled with the notion of moving so far from family. Added to this, the loan debt to be incurred would be more than we wanted to carry. Furthermore, one does not simply get a degree from an institution like this with no plan for the future. No, typically one undertakes such a program of study with the intention of remaining in academia, pursuing doctoral studies, fellowships, professorships, book publishing opportunities, research grants, etc. In other words, this is an ongoing lifestyle decision/commitment not simply a one-time opportunity. As in chess, this move now would set forth a stratagem many moves later in the “game”. Shortly after we moved I purchased tickets to the annual Acres USA conference (a sustainable farming extravaganza) in Louisville, KY, for Lena’s birthday, and by Thanksgiving 2012 we already knew that we wanted to start our own farm and permaculture once we returned from Scotland. We also knew we wanted to have another child. However, such an all-encompassing move to another country and culture would certainly delay both of these desires for at least a couple more years. This didn’t sit well with us.

What other option was there? We didn’t want to remain in the rat-race and cubicle farms of the corporate or academic worlds–we had our share of both! With prayer and a fool’s hope we wrote to Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms detailing the major crossroad that lay before us. We asked him if there was any kind of apprenticeship opportunity at Polyface for a husband and wife team, with a toddler, who desired to eventually start their own sustainable farm. We mailed the letter and waited. In the meantime, I perused the Polyface website looking at former apprentices who had gone on to start their own operations. In doing so I intentionally looked for any that may be close to us in Virginia. I found two farms. I checked their websites to see if they were in need of interns. The first one I contacted had a listing up since July for an intern position, the second one had no active listing that I could find. Nevertheless, I contacted both via Facebook messages simply asking if they had or would consider working with a husband and wife team interested in gaining the experience to start their own Polyface style farm.

The first farm replied within a day or so, and to my anxious surprise was very open to discussing the opportunity. The second farm didn’t get back to me for another week or two. But as I began a dialogue with the second farm it became apparent this was the one that suited our family best. The opportunity sounded incredible. So, we arranged for a 3-4 day “check out” as they called it, and visited their farm over the second week of January, 2013. Not only was this farm looking to hire someone, they were specifically looking for a farm manager to be over the marketing and business side of the farm. This fit our backgrounds perfectly since we’d had a lot of experience in these areas. The family was incredibly nice and accommodating, and it felt like we’d always known them. They’re just that kind of people. After a little spell of “cold feet” on our end, they encouraged us to stay the week and discover exactly what they do. We’re glad we did, because it’s everything we want to do! If you can imagine waking up every morning and stepping into an office of rolling green pastures, verdant woodlands, and shimmering ponds all while enjoying the company of your children and loving spouse- that’s what this opportunity held for us! This opportunity was ministering to the deepest needs of our formerly languishing spirits.

The more I read and research this movement of local, beyond organic, transparent, long-term solutions-oriented, sustainable farming, restoration agriculture, permaculture, abundaculture, perennial agriculture ecosystems, ecological agriculture–the terms are endless– the more I study this, I am increasingly convinced of holonic autodidacticism. That is, I’m increasingly becoming convicted of the Christian, contrarian and libertarian, environmentalist, holistic approach to life and learning. I think our institutions are painfully lacking in their stated missions, be it education, governance, or other. They merely exist to collect dues and count noses. The real long-term solutions exist at the grass roots level, in being self-taught naturalists in tune with the Creator’s designs. Being somewhat of a history buff, I realize that most of the iconic figures of history were autodidactics, i.e., they were self-taught. I also think I have the credentials (double majored and minored, graduated summa cum laude, 4.0 GPA, MBA scholar, accepted to one of the top 10 history research programs in the world, Fulbright candidate) to make the claim that being self-taught is superior to anything coming out of our modern institutions. Further, anything I truly wanted to learn I taught myself or learned in a mentoring/apprenticeship type relationship. Not to mention, being self-taught does not incur upon oneself the staggering student loan debt, which is lifelong serfdom, intentionally imposed by the government and big education via guaranteed federal loans.

I used to say that to be a classicist is to be human, but this is only partly correct. To be a farmer is to be human, because it teaches you to use your head, and your hands, and your entire being all at the same time.

So, what happened? We were offered the farm management position and made a two-year commitment in the hopes of learning everything we’ll need to know in order to eventually get our own operation started in the near future. The same day, January 18, we were offered the position, just hours later the Fulbright commission informed me that I was not selected for further consideration (appx. 9,600 individuals applied this year and only 54 awards were given for the U.K.). But hey, this is even more in line with my ever evolving libertarian/contrarian philosophy: we don’t need government subsidies or funding! As for education, we’re constantly learning every day- be it in nature, entrepreneurship, the great books, etc., and all the while we are healing our family, the land, and even the culture as we make happy earthworms and ballet in the pasture! Oh, I forgot to mention, in an ironic twist of fate (i.e., Providence) the farm we’ll be working at– J&L Green Farm– is in Edinburg, VA!

Edinburg, here we come!!