Friday, October 23, 2009

Farming American Dreams

In ‘Is Becoming a Farmer the New American Dream’, Makenna Goodman writes about the recent migration of scores of city dwellers to rural farms (herself included). She notes that among these new farmers are well-educated recent college graduates and even corporate bigwigs. Goodman questions why many with steady salaries are forfeiting them in favor of the unpredictability of the farm. She concludes that it is the desire for a greater connection with nature and a return to traditional values that is driving (via horse and buggy) so many into the agrarian lifestyle.

My father was born and raised on a farm in northeastern North Carolina, where he spent summers picking, sorting, carrying, and cleaning potatoes. As his son, I think about how our lives are so different even though we are only one generation apart. I often wonder how my character would differ if I had spent my childhood in fields of corn and cotton, rather than fields of soccer and baseball. What values I’d have if my Christmas bounty and family’s wealth were tied to Mother Nature’s weather and the crop’s health.

I regret not sharing Dad’s experiences as a kid, and feel disconnected with my ancestors and environment as a result. I question whether (and fear that) it is those things I do not share with my Dad that make him the man I so admire. But it was his wishes that led him to leave the farm, pursue other interests, and raise a family in an urban setting that he thought would best suit them. He followed the path of countless farm children before him, a path many city kids desire to take back.

Goodman includes in her article an excerpt from the Gene Logsdon book ‘Living at Nature’s Pace: Farming and the American Dream’. In the excerpt Logsdon acknowledges the rise of urban farming and community based food solutions. What is driving people back to farms is the recognition that there is a need for sustainable food systems, and that the solutions require great ingenuity. Where farms were once the places parents hoped their children would escape with the help of an education, they have now become the places where the educated are returning to craft inventive solutions that help us to escape from unsustainable consumption patterns.

For some inspiring and innovative farmers check out this New York Times Magazine article profiling Will Allen (who is coming to NC in November - visit for more information!) and the slideshow below highlighting some of North Carolina’s very own up-and-coming farmers courtesy of Mule Magazine.