Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dirt Roads

Pic from Wikimedia
As I was reading yet another of Joel Salatin's books today (Family Friendly Farming, for those of you who want to know), I came across a line that gave me belly laughs for quite a while.  Brace yourselves.

"You know what they say about people who live on a dirt road.  We never have to lock our car doors except in August--to keep the neighbors from putting runaway zucchini squash in them."

Heck, I honestly can't remember the last time I washed my truck.  It doesn't do any good--before it even gets dry, someone drives by and it's got the first coat of dust on it.  And to their credit, my neighbors have never tried to stash runaway zucchinis in my truck.

Now that you're done laughing (at least those of you who have raised zucchini or lived on a dirt road), think about that for a minute.  There's a code of ethics on dirt roads that vastly differs from that of the city.  We take care of our neighbors and are happy for what they have, instead of eyeing our neighbors and wondering what we can take.  We're also smart enough not to leave anything valuable in our cars anyway. 

It's interesting to me how farmers are usually vilified (you know, those dumb hick redneck hayseeds) but the same person, in the same breath, will talk about those wealthy farmers taking advantage of hired hands.  It saddens me that farmers are seen as one of the lowest classes of people, at least to urbanites.  Folks, even small scale farming is HARD (and I'm just barely getting my feet wet yet).  It takes brains to figure out what to plant and when, how to give more back to the land than you take from it, feed your family (and others), and not drive yourself into bankruptcy.  It takes quite a bit of trial and error, often costly at first.  Seriously, would you be willing to bet your entire year's income on whether or not you'll get fired (aka a freak storm to farmers) and still have to pay the bills?  Somehow I doubt it.  Whether you know it or not, every single person in this country relies on  . . .you guessed it!  FARMERS. 

Big business tells farmers that they have to have the latest and greatest.  That means newer machinery (unGodly expensive--some of these machines might cost more than your HOUSE) or fittings.  That means using THEIR seeds (GMO's, and they can sue you if the pollen from theirs infests yours that isn't GMO).  That means using THEIR fertilizers.  That means following THEIR instructions.  That means that they're ruining OUR land.  And they don't even live on our dirt road.

Tilling and runoff are eating away at our soil.  What does big business say?  Just add more fertilizer.  SYNTHETIC fertilizer.  Or pesticides.  Even the current idea of "no-till" farming involves spreading chemicals over the land that produces YOUR food.  Whatever happened to the idea of using natural animal behaviors (and that beneficial by-product, NATURAL manure) to enrich the soil instead of draining it?  What happened to the natural diversification that farmers used to practice before the big boys had them by the throats?

There IS a better way.  We've gotten so concerned with what we CAN do that we don't stop to think if we SHOULD.  We've thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  Cliches, I know, but in this case, they're fitting.  We all deserve healthy food, but we've let the government decide what's best for us.  Thanks, but I don't need a Big Brother (I've got one already and at least HE doesn't tell me what I can or cannot eat).  Utilizing natural resources and focusing on a big picture, actively giving back to the land (without chemicals), instead of following the "SSDD" pattern is better for all of us.  We'll all be healthier for it. 

So value those people on dirt roads.  Even the ones whose methods you don't agree with.  They'll always pull to the side for you to pass, and probably wave.  Wave to them, and if you get the chance to talk to them, thank them for raising the food you eat every day.  Walk a mile in their work boots, and you'll understand. 

Permaculture begins at home.  So what if you have a pot of tomatoes in the window?  So what if your "farm" is a 6x6 plot in the backyard?  Giving back more than you take is always important whether it be to people, plants, animals, or the Earth.  Go drive down a dirt road, think of all the lives around you, and then I dare you to tell me otherwise.

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