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For those of you who never took Psyche 101 in college, or slept through the course, let me take a moment to introduce you to Abraham Maslow. It seems obvious that a man cannot become a master architect or artist if he spends all of his time foraging for food and seeking shelter from the weather. Can a man or woman focus on taking their business to the next level if there is domestic discord in their home?
Sadly, few in today’s society understand the Hierarchy of Needs or how each level supports the others. An even more sinister and dangerous situation occurs when adults in society look to someone else for their fundamental needs. What is worse, if there is ever an interruption in these social programs, the results are disastrous and the recipients, rather than step up and provide for themselves, devolve into a forging animal state.
Examining the Hierarchy pyramid, we see that the higher needs are built upon the base needs. What the social architects ignore, whether by being naive or through deliberation and design, is the fact that each individual must build their own pyramid.
Never having learned to build the foundation of the pyramid, the individual flounders without order or structure, meaning or purpose.
When the individual rediscovers Maslow or understands the hierarchy of needs for the first time, they realize that they need a strong foundation to build their needs pyramid. Having taken the steps to store ample food and water as well as safety and security tools, the individual can focus their attention on financial security and solvency. A person who has a mastery of their career field can advance to newer and more focused achievements.
Abraham Maslow’s parents immigrated to the United States from Russia and he was the first of seven children. The great irony of our time is that our grandparents and great-grandparents survived hardship and went without only to raise a successive generation that has little understanding of genuine need or want. For the past three decades Paul Markel has had the privilege to study with some of the finest instructors the U.S. The G2 is the latest evolution of the original GS05M Gunslinger pack, and both are in wide use by elite military, police, and civilians all over the world -- snipers, marksmen, and regular folks who appreciate the overwhelming utility and versatility of this product. The new Intex-II frame system on the Gunslinger II has all of the benefits of a solid frame pack while offering the comfort and close to body fit of a more traditional pack.
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By clicking 1 Click Bid, you are agreeing to buy this item from the seller if you're the winning bidder. While I normally reserve CSA-oriented rants for waxing poetic about the economic security the model brings to our small farm, today my thoughts are on the more abstract concept of food culture and how CSAs do a great service to creating them. One of my favorite members Jane always stuck her head in the bag of CSA basil to inhale it with a euphoric sigh. When the first green beans arrive in the shares, members squeal about green bean tacos, a phenomenon largely unknown in the mainstream food culture but an almost cultish part of our CSA food culture.
Marian and Ned Eyer have been patiently posing for a photo with their CSA share each week for 5 years! I will start with an admission: I am totally, completely, head-over-heels in love with seeds. And without going too deep into the dire details, seeds are quite threatened in our modern day society.
I am one of those unfortunate people ( like many of you I’m sure) who desperately wants to make the world better, who hears the dire stats and yearns to help somehow. We also add intrigue and empowerment to our lives and offer a blueprint toward a responsive, earth-based economy based on abundance, not scarcity.
Each of these seeds has the will to live, to plant itself into the earth and root itself down and GROW.
This is why in most major religious texts including the Bible and the Quran, usury (interest) is forbidden. One of the problems with the US dollar is that we’re trying to use it as a means of exchange (exchanging it for something else we need, like food or clothes or shelter or cable TV) as well as a store of wealth for the future.
Seeds have a built-in perishability which, when coupled with their rampantly abundant nature, encourages wild, unfettered sharing of them between individuals. If you’ve ever visited my neighborhood, you might find this surprising, given that just about every house on both sides of the street near us has what I might call a festive, perpetual yard sale of projects, junk, and inbred scrappy dogs yapping through chain link fences. The aftertaste of neighborliness still lingers on the country’s palate, even as it’s retreated into its two-car-garage, flat-screen-TV isolation.
Alongside a frankly paradisical masterpiece of blooming flowers, seed crops, and vegetables was a small pile of items in the driveway that I could only guess were the source of the complaint.
And heaven forbid we are one of those souls who can’t stand to see potentially useful items sent to the dump. I’m not a hoarder, per se, nor a prepper who thinks the end times are coming and we’d better stockpile every last item we can before the trucks stop running. I come from a long line of resourceful men and women who’ve taken the castoffs of society and with their own hands given them a second beautiful, functional life.
Spring has sprung, and with it comes the surge of offers for “free garden space” from well-meaning homeowners. As a farmer producing food, I am not offered compensation by the landowner, and am sometimes asked to actually pay for the privilege of stewarding their land for them.
A small garden plot, say 20’ x 20’, or a couple of raised vegetable boxes, is not useful from a farming standpoint. That’s not to say an agreement between an individual homeowner and a neighbor who would like a little more space to garden can’t be amicably reached.
Much of the time these offers for “free garden space” include some caveats about how the land will be tended. Home gardeners often have weed-free gardens, at least early in the season, because they like to putz in their gardens—it’s a form of recreation or relaxation for them. I’ve actually had landowners where I’ve been farming their (big enough, with ample irrigation water) land complain that the garden doesn’t look nice enough when they have parties and they want to walk their friends out to see “their” farm. These offers for “free garden space” often specify that they’re looking for a “responsible” person, a “conscientious” person, to come tend the garden. This is where it gets really prickly for me, so forgive what are obviously some deep scars coming through here. If a person has more land than they want to deal with, then the farmer is absolutely doing them a favor by farming that land and not charging them money for their labor as a landscaper would. This week in the urban agriculture class I teach at the college, the students were having a discussion about what would keep them from selling their farm products to a local restaurant.  Reasons varied, from timing and quantity of harvest to discomfort or shyness about approaching chefs, but most held at their core a fear of not measuring up, of not delivering the exact thing a discerning chef would want, exactly when he would want it.
While there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about new farmers doubting their abilities, the conversation alluded to a more prevalent sentiment regarding food products, or any product really, that got my hackles up—in the hierarchy of “who matters” in our system, the end consumer is on top, and each descending rung of producers below garner less and less respect. I realize this looks like a good ole fashioned critique of capitalism, but I’ll argue that it’s not. At the absolute top, the place of most power and respect, sits the earth, and whatever brought it to be. Next comes reverence for the seed, the egg, made by the earth and of nearly incomprehensible wealth and beauty. As the chain of consumers grows, from middlemen buyers to farmer’s market or CSA customers to chefs and grocery stores, each one must join in with a fuller awareness of what has gone on before to arrive at that point. A grocery store adds gratitude for the distribution network for collecting and bringing the food to it. Heartwarmingly, this is where the ladder becomes a loop, as the castoffs of our food, and eventually, ourselves, fall into the open mouths of the decomposers, the fungi and earthworms and microorganisms that recycle all this tissue and flesh back into nutrients that will help bring forth and nourish the next generation of plants and seeds.
And from the vantage point of a farmer, and of one who’s mentoring hopeful new farmers into existence, this shift in perspective seems crucial if we are to ensure a sustainable supply of food to stock the restaurants and grocery store shelves. In a conference last month, I sobbed in my seat as I heard a story about a CSA farm in California whose members attended an early season meeting at the farm.
If the bulldozers hold off, the dandelions will start blooming soon, followed by the vetch, giving much-needed pollen and nectar to hungry bees emerging from an exceptionally cold winter. In the 9 years I’ve farmed, I’ve had 7 plots of land, and I’ve lost 4 of them for various urban reasons.
I want to believe, like you do, that we’re going to create a secure and sustainable food system. Not that individual land ownership offers the best or only option, especially for an urban farm such as the one I run. The union of money and farming has been swirling at the center of my storm for years now, and after countless books, conferences, research, dreaming, and scheming, I think I can offer a healthy, hopeful solution that has been done in other locales and can be replicated as we’re able.
This is a model I would be honored to participate in, and I’m certain other farmers would feel the same. We’re thrilled to announce that we saved over 80 varieties of seeds this year, and are offering 65 of them for sale! The 2013 Calendar gives tips on seed saving this year, along with all the other great gardening how-to info! They’re available at Edwards Greenhouse, the North End Nursery, and Bricolage. A psychologist by trade, Maslow set out to understand what motivated humans to do what they do. In this hierarchy he explained that, regardless of who they were or where they lived, all humans had certain physiological and psychological needs and that these needs built upon each other to allow the person to reach their ultimate potential. When people get the “prepping bug” they either don’t know where to start or will stop at the base level.
With food, water, warmth and shelter provided by some faceless government bureaucracy, many people never learn to secure these things for themselves. Some social engineers would offer that by having government social programs provide the foundational needs of the pyramid the recipient is free to focus on the upper levels of love and affection, achievement and mastery, independence and dominance in their career field or field of endeavor. Healthy family and romantic relationships are difficult to maintain if there is no stability in the food and shelter department. 8, 2013 photo shows Guardian Survival Gear’s Elite Survival Kit features food, water, shelter and hygiene items for one person for 24 hours. When they are financially secure people can focus on excelling in their career fields and achieving higher and loftier goals. As we gaze out at the American landscape we see a society with seemingly no understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or the importance of building that pyramid.
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Import charges previously quoted are subject to change if you increase you maximum bid amount. But as we open our annual farm education curriculum with this article, each year I see the CSA as becoming more solidly anchored at the center of a food culture for our committed members. Each week, folks come to the pickup after a day of working (or not), dressed in business suits or swimsuits, with kids in tow or beers in tow (or sometimes both). We share it all with our members, from the voluptuous brandywines that can barely make it from the field to the pickup spot without bruising to the tiny bunches of pathetic beets that just didn’t seem to grow this year.



Kale, mustard greens, chard–all of it scared the crap out of me, and it was intimidating to ask for guidance on how to cook it. Committing to bringing 18 weeks of vastly more vegetables than you’re used to cramming into your diet into your kitchen and into your belly, especially when many are unfamiliar and most need to be prepared in some way is a serious undertaking. In the interest of full disclosure I had applied to be a speaker and was not chosen as one of the nine talks presented. There is also no culture, because culture springs up around agriculture, which springs up around seeds. Patents and GMO technology criminalizes seed saving, making farmers dependent on these large companies who force them to buy new seeds each year instead of saving their own. That means that by planting and tending one seed to full maturity, I’ve made a hundred or a thousand fold return on my investment! I swept out the greenhouse after finishing seed cleaning last fall out the door, and this is what happened! The way money enters into our system is through an entity (like a bank, or the FED) loaning it into existence. This puts the dollar squarely in competition with itself, since spending and saving are opposite actions. I for one would prefer to have the future of our culture residing in the loving hands of small scale farmers and home gardeners who farm without chemicals, with more concern for the seed itself than the bottom line.
With my little life, I can plant my seeds every year, adapting them to my garden, to our city, to our bioregion. With my own little life I’m helping to preserve and prepare something that will feed my loved ones years from now. It’s been so suddenly lost that we can still remember, if only subconsciously, what it was like to chat on front porches, borrow a cup of sugar, pitch in around harvest time.
Two 5 gallon buckets, some poly pipe for doing irrigation repairs, equipment for Brent’s biodiesel making project, the wooden sides for the back of my truck, some used greenhouse plastic, and the folded legs from two sets of pop up canopies whose tops had bit the dust in the weather.
We live in a country whose sole purpose seems to be to convince us to buy and consume more stuff. Almost every item in my driveway was the castoff of someone else’s failed plans, and instead of throwing it into the cesspool of rotting trash threatening to slide down onto the city and leach into the groundwater, I opted to bring it home, to a piece of land I’ve been paying for, and store it until it finds another useful purpose. But I will say that I don’t have the religious faith in “The Store” that I’ve observed in many of my fellow Americans. We want everyone to have the manicured lawn, the concrete curbing, because it lulls us into a false sense of security in a terrifying world. As interest in “local food” grows, more and more people are looking at their land through new eyes, for the potential it holds for food production. This is also generally accepted as the way of things, I suppose because it is assumed that I will be earning money from the food I will be growing, which is where my compensation will come from.
These are large tracts of land that are laid out for production farming—they’re cleared and graded, with irrigation systems in place. It can certainly supplement a single family’s diet, and is of course a valuable asset on a piece of land, but I believe it falls under the same category as a lawn or a shrub border—a part of a parcel that is the responsibility of a homeowner to take care of. What raises concerns for me is the number of these types of offers that are forwarded to me through email or facebook as viable options for farmers.
When a person invites another person to garden their land, that person doesn’t have the same thing invested in it—they’re not looking at it during dinner on the patio or mindlessly pulling weeds while chatting to a distant relative on the phone in their jammies. And when your job is as a landscaper and you’re getting paid by the hour, you will take whatever time the homeowner desires to make sure they have a beautiful, weed-free space.
Again, this is where the aesthetic desires become the territory of a landscaper, not a farmer.
It means that person is balancing a task list that’s far longer than the available hours in a day, and that their basic need for an income will sometimes necessitate doing other things besides weeding, like harvesting, washing, and distributing produce. Years ago, I calculated the number of hours we spent on our farm plots, divided as it was then between three plots of land.
The highly discerning and quality-demanding chef becomes a beggar at the hands of the almighty customer who will make or break her career. When it comes to my life’s work of creating resilient and delicious local food systems, it’s not so much capitalism I have a bone with—rather, it’s with the faulty accounting systems on which the omniscient “market” operates.
I like this because, not only is it factually true—we are made of the earth and rely totally on it to live—but it guides us into making better and better decisions at each descending rung.
For those who caretake the precious seeds, and for the plants—the primary producers, who can make tissue from sunlight and water, enough to feed every being down the chain. The miraculous earth springing forth the wondrous seed and the plants that make food from the sun, and the seed stewards who’ve lovingly selected the seeds of these foods over centuries and the farmer who grew the plants, tended them, picked them, and brought them to where you are. Farmers increasingly need to skip the step to the end consumer, packing up their knowledge and skill and handing over their land to a big box strip mall because culturally we don’t value them enough to provide them an ample wage for their efforts. Our CSA members pay us money without seeing the end product, trusting as we must in the continual capability of the earth to spring forth new life, and being willing to shoulder the risk alongside us should something go awry.
As they watched the farmers’ kids playing, one of the members asked the farmers if they had a college fund for their kids. And their members, most of whom had steady jobs with health insurance and retirement benefits, decided this was unacceptable.
As spring begins again and a new season of cherished seeds find their way through the hands of reverent stewards into the wet, welcoming skin of the earth, let us come together in celebration and gratitude for all it takes to get food into our bellies, and let us work together to find ways of truly supporting that noble work.
The garlic and onions that slipped through the cracks in our shovels last year, the hollyhocks Marty gave me that would finally set seed this year, that beautiful butter-yellow yarrow I don’t remember planting, Sarah’s grandma’s Irises, the sage we moved to this garden plot from the last one. Moving shouldn’t be as big a deal anymore (I don’t double dig my new farm plots with a shovel anymore like we did the first three), but every time it makes me melancholy. What excites me more than owning a piece of my own farmland is leveraging the growing interest in creating local food systems to use a collective ownership model that values farmers with security and land with sustainable long-term care.
Find a piece of land worthy of becoming or continuing to be a farm, with good water and decent soil.
If the plot isn’t city-owned already, use the Slow Money principles and models to pool investors’ money to purchase the land. Work with the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, or the city, to get the land put into a trust with the stipulation that it will always be farmland. Show the farmer or farmers they are valued by granting them a lengthening lease on the land, starting at 1 or 2 years, then renewing for 5 years, then 20, so the farmers can have the security to build something that will sustain them into retirement and that can continue after they’re gone, in turn sustaining the community for the long haul. It serves the deepest aspirations of my soul—a collective bettering of our beloved city by including more fresh, local food in it for the long term, creating an economy centered around sustainable food production, and truly valuing the farmers who devote their lives and livelihoods to doing this work. Seeds are available at the North End Organic Nursery, Edwards Greenhouse, and a limited selection at the Boise Co-op. To this end, we operate a small, bicycle-powered CSA farm, a sustainable landscaping company, and offer a variety of workshops, lectures, classes, and public presentations to help transform our city into an urban oasis! Markel received is Bachelors Degree in Conflict Resolution in 1991 after studying at home and abroad.
Divorce, financial troubles, and other domestic issues all distract from the mission or career.
Others will go out and purchase a handgun and ammunition but they don’t even have two days worth of food in their cupboards at home. A person cannot reach self-fulfillment, seek personal growth and peak experiences if there is constant struggle at home. The Intex-II adds a new level of support and stability to the Gunslinger II, making it a compact and tough heavy-load capable pack. If you reside in an EU member state besides UK, import VAT on this purchase is not recoverable.
They stay for a few minutes or an hour, sitting in the shade on lawn chairs or the coolers that hold their week’s goodies, and chat about everything from what they ate for dinner last week to the death of a loved one. It also teaches us what isn’t available in every week, or in some cases (like avocados) ever.
Sage butter, kale salad with soba noodles, and Casey’s Tasty Leek and Ground Cherry pizza are all CSA member favorites, and each year a new member brings another epic dish into the fold. So, you might say I had a little ego wrapped up in my curiosity to see what the selection committee thought Boiseans should hear. From carrots in Afghanistan to corn in Central America, cultures of people have simultaneously bred foods from seeds and have been bred by the seeds they sow. An Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes due to the crushing debt that has accompanied the spread of conventional agriculture and patented or GMO seeds.
Seeds have throughout human history been largely in the hands of small farmers and gardeners and even today, though the agribusiness giants and chemical companies are trying to control them, most of our agricultural biodiversity still resides in the hands of small farmers and gardeners. And as a person who grows seeds, I have the intense, sometimes overwhelming, pleasure that comes with that mind-blowing abundance. Whereas in the monetary economy there exists more debt than there is virtual “money” to pay it off, with seeds each successive generation yields 100x more than its parent!
Each month the owner of that bill must purchase and apply a stamp to it for it to be valid during that month. Unlike our industrial economy, though, there are not adverse affects to the rampant growth of seeds. The seeds learn the ways of the West, of Idaho, of the Snake River plain, of Boise, of Hill Road, of my field. That is a true store of wealth for the future, a real retirement plan that isn’t subject to the volatility and the trickery of the stock market. The idea that we’ve lost, in only a generation or so, the ability to talk with our neighbors about something that ‘s bothering us is paramount to tragedy.
We’re told we need it to “create jobs”, for survival as well as social standing, and we line up in droves to get the next new ticket to success and happiness. Boisterous gardens, scrappy dogs, and piles of crap in neighbors’ driveways remind us that we don’t control everything around us. As we all know, farming doesn’t pay well, but to be fair, a small farm operation does generate some income, so it’s not a totally off-base assumption. In our urban setting, pieces of vacant or underutilized land are much smaller, often surrounded by fences or other obstacles which make using equipment in them difficult.
If they do not wish to take care of it, the person they need to seek help from is a landscaper, not a farmer.
When you’re doing it for “free,” you’re balancing that with all the other demands of your life. That there are hundreds of pounds of food coming out of that land each week and no crop is being choked out by weeds is as good as it’ll get for me as an itinerant farmer.
Still, if the answers to the above two questions point more toward needing a landscaper, then you may be disappointed in the way a person, even a conscientious one, does this work for free. There is an idea that a person who owns a piece of land is somehow superior to one who may work it. If each of my landowners would have paid a very modest landscaper wage of $25 per hour for the time we spent tending their land, each landowner would have paid $21,000 per year, and we would have made $63,000 per year from the farm without selling a single vegetable. More and more of us wake up each day to the idea that we could be growing more food on our land, and that local food will create a strong, resilient community.
The industrial farmer, in order to deliver blemish-free, appropriately cheap food, exploits the labor of migrant workers and fossil fuels and wastes and pollutes topsoil and watersheds.
The externalities, in economist jargon, coupled with the need for a more accurate and celebratory exploration of the “supply chain,” which necessarily involves flipping the hierarchy on its head.


The earth, the seed, the plant, the seed steward, the farmer, the distributor, then the chef and the kitchen staff who coaxed wondrous, succulent flavors from it and the dishwashers who cleaned the plate and the server who brought him the food.
To put it bluntly, as the end consumer, we’re one step from the recycling bin, and honestly, the farmer could skip that step if she needed or wanted to. They put their wallets and their palates in our hands, and they gain a broader culinary experience by eschewing their ability to choose what they get in their share. They wanted their farmer to have the same level of security they had, to be valued at least as much as they were for their life’s work. To get real about what food needs to cost to actually pay a producer, one who farms with the utmost respect for the earth, a living wage, and then to be supported fully in that!
The developer’s got a sign up now—in a few days or weeks or months they’ll start to build houses, erase our hand-dug furrows with big machines, scrape the topsoil, roll out the sod, put up a for sale sign.
While my body scours the garden for any jewel that can be saved, I occupy my mind writing a love letter in reverse to the farming community, addressed to those who love local food, farms, and farmers, but aren’t necessarily farmers themselves. It’s what I get up for in the morning, why my calloused hands far exceed my age, why I continue to dig up new gardens, add manure, make compost, without a contract or health insurance or a living wage. From my particular vantage point on this spring day, the direction my compass points is toward land ownership.
As I leave this garden plot, my sights are set squarely on a secure place to concoct the lengthy love potion of building good soil, planting perennials, creating a legacy that can be passed down through generations of careful stewards to feed generations of grateful, healthy souls. I’m looking for something in the city, because that’s been my business model, and because our city needs farms, just like every place needs farms. This can be done through the CSA model (investors are members who get paid back with food), the Soil Trust model (investors pool money philanthropically), the crowdfunding model (ala kickstarter), community investment mutual funds, grants, loans, or any combination of those.
This alleviates the conundrum virtually every farm owner across the country has of whether to sell the land to developers at artificially high prices. This model allows us to leverage the modest resources of a large crop of people, which in turn gives a large crop of people a genuine stake in the farm’s success, and therefore, in their own health and the health of their community. Members check out seeds through the library, grow the crops in their gardens, and return seed at the end of the year.
You will also be able to purchase seeds directly through our website by the end of the winter!
Paul has been writing professionally for over twenty years as well as teaching Small Arms and Tactics to US Military, Law Enforcement and Citizens nationwide.
The basic and most fundamental needs are at the base and more elusive psychological needs are at the top. Understanding this, those in the military or government will often lose their Top Secret security clearances based on domestic troubles.
Removing challenges and obstacles from an individual does not increase self-actualization and self-respect, it handicaps and stifles it. He learned hard lessons about personal preparation and thrift and he learned the perils of indebtedness. It can be interchanged with our Endo frame, as well as more compact, softer frame called a Gossamer frame, or can simply be removed, which effectively reverts the pack back to the traditional G2 platform. With reasonable success, we mitigate those impulses through civil codes, religious rituals, maternal warnings–the whole bag of tricks we call culture.
And when it’s time to get their goodies and head for home, they hold out their bags like trick-or-treaters and ooh and ahh appropriately as I pull each item out of the coolers and dole it out between them. But instead of that being a letdown, the progression of CSA crops becomes an exciting journey, and each one brings with its arrival the promise of specific meals that families come to look forward to. As a result, our agro-biodiversity–the number of different varieties of our food crops, is plummeting.
Around my house and my farm, seeds are everywhere, tucked inside lines of jars, drying on plates on every available flat surface, ripening by the thousands in the field.
The idea with them is that people will be encouraged to spend them quickly, not hoard them, which stimulates economic activity and puts people back to work. At the core of our capitalist economy is the pretense of endless economic growth as a necessity. Each year they spring boldly to life, facing an ever-changing world, an ever-changing climate with different diseases, different weather events, different challenges. Yet without it, we wouldn’t be here to build buildings or write symphonies or make crazy robots that can drive our cars for us or whatever.
I felt sad thinking that one of my neighbors had broken what I thought was the neighborhood code—deal with your own shit, stay out of other peoples’ business, and if you have something to say, talk to the person instead of tattling on them. If we can’t find common ground with the person next door, how are we ever going to get along in an increasingly globalized world? Once we get it home, though, we’re not supposed to let it clutter up our precious yards, which should be nothing but sterile monocultures of chem-lawns and meatballed shrubs corralled by concrete edging. One, because an economy based on sucking fossil fuels from the earth and turning it into cheap crap that’s designed to break down and be thrown in the dump within 6 months of manufacture doesn’t seem like it has the kind of sea legs on it that entice me to throw myself onto the boat.
The self-sufficient bootstrapper holds a place of honor in our culture, but heaven forbid he store his materials in his yard for awhile before getting down to it.
However, straddling the divide as I do between farmer and landscaper, I think it is important to clarify the differences between landscaping and farming in order to help everyone—landowner and prospective gardener—gain some clarity.
However, there are differences between a farm and a vegetable garden in your back yard, which is partly the point of this article.
They also often have access only to expensive city water or are shaded much of the day by large trees. It is widely acceptable to hire a company to mow and fertilize a lawn, to trim trees or shrubs, and weed ornamental flower borders. From an organic farming standpoint, eliminating weeds is not necessary for producing a good crop, and farmers must balance weeding with the other demands on their time, working more from a standpoint of weed thresholds and reducing weed pressure on sensitive crops than on keeping the farm completely weeded. Many home gardeners become tired of weeding their gardens mid-way through the season—why should it be any different for a gardener who isn’t getting paid to weed your land? We can look around our city with new eyes, seeing every vacant patch, every underutilized corner, as having the potential to feed us and our neighbors.
A more sustainable small-scale farmer, who relies more on human labor and co-creation with the earth is at a disadvantage because her food costs more and possibly has some nicks or holes in it. One who does this in service to the awesome earth, and to the dear and deserving life that springs forth from it.
They asked the farmer to sit down and crunch the numbers, to figure out how much their CSA shares needed to cost to afford their family these basic things.
The new owners will have no evidence that there was once a beautiful organic garden where their house now sits. Less than 1% of arable farmland is owned by campesinos (the people who actually work the land). Don’t overlook city-owned land, abandoned schools, parks and rec land, etc, as these are generally the largest tracts of undeveloped land we have. Once the land is protected in a trust, it remains valuable as ag land, not the possibility of ticky tacky strip malls and subdivisions, and we are collectively the better for it. Food cultures concentrate a population’s collective wisdom about the plants and animals that grow in a place, and the complex ways of rendering them tasty. Together we celebrate the miracles of seeds making indescribably beautiful sustenance with each enormous bouquet of brightly colored chard or enticingly plump early turnips, and we count our blessings that we’re able to eat so well, through the good-natured work of passionate humans attempting to conduct the orchestra of the natural world into something tasty.
The kids move through their delighted season from turnips to peas to ground cherries to watermelons–all the sweetest treats in the shares, and they eat them all like candy during the pickup. And I also was surprised to realize that outside my little foodie circles, food is still a marginalized topic of conversation even though without it, most of the things the other presenters spoke about wouldn’t have existed.
They’re alive, breathing, waiting (some more patiently than others) for the chance to spring forth and make tons more seeds!
I’ve for years worked for people on landscaping jobs who live in a relentless prison of subdivision covenants and whitewashed Pleasantville-ites that limit what they can do and plant in their own yards, and I’ve always appreciated my neighborhood’s live-and-let-live vibe. Do we really want to turn over our own autonomy to the powers that be and eschew the nuance of individual interaction for cookie-cutter regulations? And two, the crap in the store is there because of the exploitation of resources, natural and human, and has created infinitely more waste and devastation in its processing than I could ever hope to stockpile in my driveway. I shudder when I see a flag-waving neighbor spraying Roundup or polishing his gigantic new car, fearing for what will become of my beloved planet with this insanity all around me. Potential farmers must learn to observe these things before agreeing to steward a piece of land. A weed-free garden plot falls neatly under the landscaping category, just like weed-free borders and lawns. Believe me, I’d love to live in one of those too, but if I’m going to put that kind of meticulous time and attention into a landscape, it’s going to be my own or one I get paid to work on. There is some truth to this—if a person doesn’t have their own land and wants to farm land, then you are doing them a favor by providing them that land.
How we each navigate the intersections of land ownership and land stewardship will be as varied as we are, but I hope this article can at least help to put some of the issues surrounding it into context, matching the right land owner with the right land steward.
We tell them when and where they must come pick up their food, in accordance with a schedule that works for us, the producers. The farmers came back to the members and told them that a CSA share would need to jump in price from $400 to $900 for this to happen. I pull the black-eyed susans next to the CSA pickup spot, cluck a nod of pity toward the purple orach sprouts that will never live to flower and reproduce. I think it’s correct to offer the perspective that the people who steward land would make the most fitting owners of it, or at least the most responsible ones. I particularly like the idea of using city land, because it’s already collectively owned by all of us. Rooted in the soil-based economics of what can be sustainably produced on it year after year, with the revenue from that production being able to comfortably cover the mortgage on the land, we elegantly link land and economy, thus bringing money down to earth, in Slow Money’s words. Using this system, it is impossible for everyone who has borrowed money to pay back all their loans with interest, because there literally doesn’t exist enough money for everyone to fulfill their obligation! Besides, I find it insulting that, in order to be “good neighbors and citizens” we should dutifully throw away everything the second it falls out of use for a moment, and then return to “The Almighty Store” like good little boys and girls and buy a new one.
But the point is that we find common ground when we talk to each other, and from those genuine points of connection, we can navigate the trickier differences in opinion. But again, this is where the line between landscaper and farmer is a tough one for me to straddle. The changemaker in me loves their possibility for creating a more just and sustainable world.
This means, for someone to get enough money to pay back her loan, someone else has to default.
Isolation won’t keep us safe, it will keep us isolated and afraid, especially when we live in fear that our neighbors are spying and calling the cops on us!
When a loan officer looks at your credit score to determine whether you’re a reliable borrower, what they’re really examining is how good you are at going out and competing with your neighbors to bring back a larger share of this scarce resource.



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