Our son David just turned 18 in May, is graduating from Mt. Madonna High school this week, and is off to college by the end of summer. I cant deny feeling a bit emotional about it, seeing David all of a sudden as a mature young adult taking flight, leaving the nest. Watching him on stage for his final performance of the Ramayana — one of the great Indian epics his school has been performing every year since he started preschool 13 years ago (the immortal tale of Shri Rama that teaches us the values of devotion, duty, relationship, dharma and karma) — it struck me how true it is that it takes a village to raise a child. Not just a village, it’s more like an entire city contributed to his upbringing and unfolding maturity over the years.
I don’t expect him to take over the farm anytime soon, but I know he draws inspiration from having grown up on a farm. In his college application he wrote, “…organic farming has always been a part of my life. I believe everyone should have access to healthy sustainably grown food like I do. I like to go to a school that prepares me to build food systems that prevent hunger, malnutrition, and obesity.” The farm, his home for nearly 18 years, has nurtured and planted a seed in him, a seed that tells a rich story of a boy growing into a young man, one who now is ready to leave home and test new fields and soil content, to start his own plantings.
David was barely walking when we started Live Earth Farm, a place in nature surrounded by a diverse community of animals, plants, and people. The farms fields and open spaces became his playground; collecting sticks and stones, digging in the soil, playing with the chickens, goats, dogs and cats, climbing trees to reach that perfectly-ripe sweet fruit, or just hiding in the shade of his favorite climbing tree were simple but enriching activities. I vividly remember how, in spring, he would disappear into cover-cropped fields taller than he was for hours, alone or with his friends, slashing with sticks and make-believe swords at the tall fava beans.
He has also experienced the physical work involved in farming, doing farm chores, working summers and seeing Dad returning late from the fields often exhausted from seemingly endless work and little time to play. He understands the harsh realities of farming; the risks caused by unpredictable weather, pests, fires, mechanical equipment breakdowns… all of which cause damage and loss on the farm. He understands the seasonality of food, the cycles of planting, growing, harvesting, celebrating and resting. Every day, when we prepare and share meals, he gets to experience how crops only recently growing in our fields are transformed into a nourishing meal. In our family, sharing meals is an important daily ritual, a time to slow down and simply enjoy and be grateful for being together.
The farm is intuitively a part of him, his body has been nurtured by food that came from the land, and has lived many seasons through his four senses. Soon he’ll be off to explore and discover his passion, his inner compass seeking out direction in the challenging opportunities of our time, inviting him to raise his voice, to engage in and construct communities for a world that is more just, more healthy, and more democratic… and (I am sure) in which sustainable agriculture and farming families form a fundamental part of a better future. The seeds planted in him carry farming values of respect, courage, perseverance, mutual assistance, and love, lots of love. Love for friends, family, and community, love for nature, love of agriculture, and most importantly – love of life. David is ready to graduate, to leave his school and home to explore the world. It is a blessing for Constance and I to feel that by letting go we are invited to witness and walk with him on his next journey.