Farming Beauty and Joy

What are some things that make you smile and breathe deeply? A forest, a flower, a pie, a baby, a starry sky? These are beautiful things, and there are reasons why you react to them by relaxing and enjoying. This is why I farm; for beauty and for joy. Not for a frivolous beauty but for an enduring beauty, a robust and adaptive beauty, the kind that comes from deep in the ground, deep in life, revealed in the open air as blossoming health. Health of soil, of plants, of animals, of communities and, ultimately, of the planet. There is a practicality to this kind of beauty, this kind of joy, one that’s sorely needed in these challenging times.

Spring 2020

View from the hill when we first arrived – ground 0.

This is our farm: Highgrove Farm&Commons. It’s on a former clearcut, the scars of which are still visible on the hillside. We leased this land so we could farm it to heal it. We aim to feed people with food grown here using methods that nourish the soil, increase biodiversity and sequester carbon. The new agricultural sciences tell us that these three elements are essential for a resilient and productive food system. In the year-and-a-half we’ve been here building the farm from scratch, we’ve already made improvements to that purpose. As Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer have said, a healthy farm is beautiful. And we will know when we’ve achieved a healthy farm when it has fully blossomed into its beauty.

The success of our efforts has implications beyond the boundaries of this property. At Highgrove Farm&Commons we recognize that our current agricultural and socio-political systems aren’t working and have created an ugly world of CAFOs and monocultures and food deserts, of poverty and oppression and strife. But our very bones contain the wisdom of all our ancestors which tells us that there is something better. If you’re shocked by the most recent IPCC report, you know why we’re here. If you’re baffled by pipelines and Fairy Creek logging and dying coral reefs and embattled orangutans, you can see where we’re coming from. If you feel disempowered by the lack of real action on the Climate Crisis from the world’s corporations (incl. governments), you can understand why we chose to do something, ourselves. We are not here to get rich quick. We are not here to corner any markets or to compete with anyone. What we’re here for is to work with our neighbors, local and international – with you – with all those who are willing to bring about real abundance. An enduring abundance that uplifts all of us. We want to collaborate with you to establish a healthy, open, nurturing society where people care and actively support each other and their environment. But why did we decide to start with a farm?

It has long been apparent to me that food is the cornerstone of civilization; food security is less about how much food is available and much more about what kind of social network we live in. Which is why the &Commons part of the farm’s name is so important, since we recognize that we can’t build the ‘something better’ that could come after the current ugliness all on our own. We don’t need leaders, we need ‘us’, ‘we’ need to step up and learn to work together, ‘we’ need to “be the change we want to see”. And if you understand that, you already get it. But if you’re doing it, you’re already part of the ‘we’ I’ve been referring to. Highgrove Farm&Commons is merely a stage where we get to create both a new way of feeding ourselves and new ways of being human and humane. The writing’s been on the wall for a long time now. The disruption and danger of climate change and societal collapse are opportunities to forge ahead, together, by building something better than what we had before. This is an invitation to you, an invitation to imagine and build along with those of us seeking answers to the challenging questions of how to manifest what comes after we replace and heal the parts of our world and of our collective culture that don’t work, to nurture and grow that enduring beauty and joy we all need.

There are all sorts of ways you can help us create resilience: by your interest, time and effort, or by joining us as fellow farmers, and because we still have to exist in our current system, you can also support us with gifts to help us with the start-up costs for the farm (there’s a fundraiser button on the How To Get Involved page, here). And we’d be so glad to hear from you, just to chat, answer questions, ask questions, and learn from each other.