Where Pride Begins: History Breeds Community
By John Lee
Lora Tom of the Cedar Band of the Paiute Tribe explained that “it’s good to have a place you can say you come from; a place that you know; a place where people have happy gatherings. That’s where pride begins.” She is quite right.
As retiring farmers leave the land, in most cases there is not a next generation to carry on the family farming tradition. Today the young farmer-aspirants are making personal accommodations to create and establish a new rootedness, a new vocabulary of tradition, rhythm, and pridefulness.
Too often, young farmers come to the land without the support of elders (mentors). They often find themselves as warriors in a world where the ‘enemy’ is deeper, more entrenched and better able to withstand whatever young agri-aspirants may (with the best of intentions) bring to the situation. When faced with seemingly uncontrollable perils (though they may be transient), having a deeper relation to one’s land, the stick-to-it sentiment that comes with experience, is frequently the life-saver. Those of us with generations on the land—‘our’ land—have a unique relationship with it and the livestock. We ‘have been there,’ come to know the resource, appreciate it and have the capacity to bring along family, friends to create community around a universal yearning for elementary and understandable lives.
Sometimes it is a certain individual (akin to a horse-whisperer) who can all but instantly bring new or ill-used land to life, translate its energies for the uninitiated and thus create community. But it is really children, born to the land, that develop the deepest sense of pride, the memories of idyllic, happy gatherings, that know and love the magic and romance of a farm and a farm’s community. They ‘know’ that place from whence they come, that place which will frame their values, their happiest, most unencumbered moments, and guide their lives.
Luther Burbank, famed botanist and educator (1849-1926), postulated that “Every child should have mudpies, frogs, tadpoles, elderberries, strawberries…trees to climb, brooks to wade, waterlillies and woodchucks…huckleberries and hornets; any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of an education.” None have said it better: a child’s innate sense of celebration with the all of the communities he or she encounters, the sense of relationship that breeds pride in relationship is what makes that sense of place so prideful and binds those of us who know it to the land.
In these days of waning agricultural opportunity, it is incumbent upon all of us to recognize the yearning for land-based relationships and to do what we can to enable or provide such opportunities by supporting organizations like 4-H, Agriculture in the Classroom, Future Farmers of America et al. If you are lucky enough to own a farm, share the joys and realities of that responsibility with a neighborhood school group or other organization. The wonderment and excitement in young visitors’ faces will more than repay your kindness and investment.
John Lee is the manager of Allandale Farm (Boston’s last working farm), which specializes in naturally grown local produce. Each summer, John manages an outdoor children’s program on the farm. He writes for local news outlets and is deeply involved with farming and locally grown issues in Massachusetts.