Why I Am A Farmer: A Guest Post from Elizabeth Green

August 4, 2011

Like most intensely talented folk, Liz Green has the ability to collect information from multiple disciplines and apply them to her life. In her post, she shares how concerns about our federal policies, environmental sustainability and faith shape how (and why) she farms. Liz has played an important role in the development of BFJN, serving at different times as both a board member and as program staff on our campaign to make Boston a Fair Trade Town. (She’s also become my #1 resource for advice for my own vegetable garden. Thanks Liz!)

It’s days like this, at the beginning of August smack in the middle of the farm season, when I am most thrilled and most exhausted by my work. (In fact, I can’t even believe I agreed to write a blog post at this time of the summer!) The weeds are in full throttle, threatening to take over the entire farm. Rows and rows of crops are pushing out of the soil, waiting to be harvested and eaten – potatoes, summer squash and zucchini, beets, carrots, greens, herbs, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes…

I’m spending my days managing a 6-acre vegetable and livestock farm, organic (but not certified – that’s another blog post for another time!) and working to grow good food using sustainable methods. I’m in my fourth season farming, and my first year managing. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I love every single day.

I was put on a path to farm, in part, by reading Wendell Berry, a farmer-writer-poet in Kentucky. He writes about community and the beauty and satisfaction of working with your hands, among many other great things. He’s in his 80s now, and a few months agotook part in a sit-inprotesting destructive environmental practices in his state: mountaintop-removal, a tragedy caused by coal mining and “clean coal”.

Mr. Berry knows that our health and well-being are intimately connected to the broader communities we live in — if our towns and neighbors are hurting, sick, polluted, and poor in body and spirit, so are we. This is why I choose to farm. Our current food system is deeply broken, and the food we grow in America is more often the cause of harm than healing. We cover our fields in toxic chemicals, we treat our workers like slaves, we dump our subsidized, excess crops on developing countries and contribute to their deep poverty, we play God with genetically-engineered seed and plants, and we’ve created the public health crisis of our generation.

What to do? How to respond to this overwhelming mess?

I believe God calls us to joyful work and to be faithful in little and in much. For me, I want to be a part of putting the pieces back together, seed by seed and row by row. Encouraged by heroes like Mr. Berry, who’s taken small and big steps for a sustainable world for many years, I want to make change. I hope to contribute to the health of my town and my neighbors — even my global brothers and sisters — by growing good food that’s nutritious and safe to eat, and that stewards and heals the land I’ve been lent.

So I’ll be in the fields for the rest of this season, hoping for big changes in our national food policy and the way we eat. And I’ll be pulling one weed at a time.

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