To implemement and develop systems of agriculture that result in solvent farmers, sane people, and sound ecosystems.
I know, I know… there’s nothing in all that about healthy food or healthy people. What kind of a mission statement is that? What if I told you that all that stuff about healthy food and healthy people was summed up in the last phrase, that being “sound ecosystems”?
Could it be that we as humans are actually part of the creation, ie. the ecosystem, land, environment or what have you? I would submit that we most certainly are. If we who have been put into this creation to shepherd and bring forth good and healthy fruit from it aren’t healthy ourselves, how’s this whole ecosystem thing going to work out? You guessed it… it won’t. Likewise if we shirk our role as stewards and fail to bring forth good fruit from the earth and nourish ourselves with it, the human part of our ecosystem falls flat on its face. And just to clarify, I know… there are plenty of ecosystems on this earth that seem to hum right along un-touched by human hands and creativity. But that’s not the point here. We’re talking about sound, agriculturally productive ecosystems. We’re not talking about stagnant old-growth forests, or parched prairie (sorry all you conservationist folks). What we’re talking about are places of renewing abundance. Places molded and orchestrated by human creativity that far-surpass “un-domesticated” ecosystems in terms of productivity, resilience, and diversity. These are the sort of “sound” ecosystems we’re shooting for.
Since I’ve already begun to work backwards in this explanation I might as well continue. On to the second part of our mission, which has to do with sanity. Perhaps spiritual and emotional well-being would be more of the catch-all phrase for this one. This part of our mission has so many facets and rabbit trails that the following explanation could never begin to cover them all. I’ll just touch on a few of the more obvious aspects. For starters, how many people do you know that would like to get into farming? Young, old, middle aged, whatever. There are countless people who would love to get into farming or some part of it, and some of them might not even know it yet. They might just be dissatisfied with their jobs and have a real yearning to “do something with their hands”, or “be able to see and touch what they had gotten done at the end of the day”. Others who know they want to farm just see no way into the land-extensive, capital-intensive monstrosity most people know as farming. In my mind this is an absolute shame, as I see an agrarian culture as having so much to offer our society. For instance, it is no secret that working with your hands to produce something for the good of others can have a profoundly calming, and grounding effect on a person. Does our culture need more grounded and calm people? I need not even answer that. In my opinion the more paths of entry we can create for newcomers into an agricultural lifestyle the better. I think a few more farmers might go a long way to curbing some of the insanity we see in our day and age. Really though, who has time to riot in the streets or spread a whole lot of hate around when the chicken tractors need to be serviced, the cattle need to be moved, and the onions and garlic need to be weeded?
Now let’s head off in a slightly different direction, but still keep with this idea of spiritual and emotional well-being. Do you think it’s a good idea to bring everything we do in our vocations under submission to God’s law for the benefit of our neighbor? Or if you’re not willing to go that far, at least strive to do what is good, honorable and noble; personally and business-wise? I know we can all agree on that! What I am afraid of though, is that the theological and secular ethical ideals that we would all nod our heads in agreement with aren’t always what we check ourselves against, especially in the world of business. If the old scale of humanity vs. envy were to be dusted off and the fruits of our current agro-industrial paradigm weighed upon in, which side would be found wanting? What would be disclosed as the predominant forces directing our agricultural actions? Would they be humane qualities such as gentleness, compassion, and benevolence, which are so often closely associated with healthy relationship building and stewardship? Or would they be brawn and willful force, expediency and covetousness; those things which are close at hand with envy. I am once again afraid the latter mentioned mentality would tip the scale. Not in a dramatic or brash way, but subtly in the way we treat our livestock, land, plants and people.
When I look at the conditions most confinement housed animals live in (and I would know as I have worked in many of these places), I can see they are controlled with the welfare of the animal in mind, but I don’t see humanity and all its attributes. What I see rather is a spirit that is willing to subject livestock to whatever manipulation is culturally accepted in order to efficiently produce a commodity. Now let me throw in this caveat: I am not trying to demonize conventional livestock farmers and make them out to be treacherous exploitive monsters. That would be ridiculous as many are my friends and neighbors, and I know them well enough to say that is not the case. What I am trying to do is bring to light the idea that all beings, agriculturally related and otherwise, have God given value and a special, complex part to play in the creation if we let them. Whether we let them play their part will be dependent on how we approach the creation. Will we approach as swashbuckling conquistadors ready to exploit and plunder, or will we realize and fulfill our role as an image of God to the creation? It will not just be the farmers and business-people of our society who need to spend some time in introspective contemplation about these matters, but also consumers. What happens on the farm is most often a direct reflection of what is being demanded by consumers.
If all these lofty and esoteric ideas seem a bit abstract perhaps a real life example would explain it better. Will I come to a chicken and see it as God created it to be; a omnivore designed to move about broadly scavenging on a diet of forages and animal proteins? And then using the creativity bestowed upon me by God, will I envision a way that I could maintain and respect this chicken’s pattern of life while incorporating it into my profitable farm and benefiting from the eggs it produces? (Aha! An eggmobile!) Or will I see this chicken as a mere unit of egg production ready to be placed in a cage and left to subsist —deprived of any sort of reasonable quality of life— so I can efficiently produce and sell a cheap commodity? This is the fork in the road that we find ourselves at. Do we strive for a deeper application of virtue that extends into the very way that we produce our food? Or do we just do what Dad did or what state paid agricultural “experts” advise us to do? Do we attempt to make our systems of agriculture also serve as object lessons of spiritual truth, or do we settle for cheap food, unhealthy people and the status quo? I’ll commit myself to the former.
If you’ve stayed with me to this point I commend you! Perhaps it means you are willing to consider an agricultural ideal that goes beyond the industrialist and globalist mantra of “feeding the world”. If that is the case you have my applause as well. Now, I would be much obliged if you would stick with me through the last part of this explanation. This last, well—first— part of our mission statement deals with debt. Our current conventional farming system loves debt. It swims in it. It’s dependent on it. In most cases if the bank didn’t come through the seed wouldn’t go in the ground, or the confinement house wouldn’t be built —you name it. I see this as a fundamentally fragile foundation to build our food and farming system upon. What happened to the old rural values of solvency and thrift? They seem to have flown right out the window as this new directive of “get big or get out” got its grip upon American agriculture. I am not calling for an outright return to yesteryear, and I will most certainly eschew an overly nostalgic spirit that would have us back in the days of moldboard plowing and hog cholera. However I do think methods of farming that allow for a higher degree of solvency, even during the start-up of an operation, have a lot to offer agriculture as a whole. One benefit of less capital intensive farming methods is they allow for a more resilient base of farmers who are more prepared to weather the hardships which are a historical reality. (80's farm crisis anybody?) Obviously, they also allow for easier start-ups, which should peak our interest in an era where the average age of farmers is dancing with 60. Additionally, without the baggage and bondage of monolithic industry-standard, high-cost, depreciable infrastructure and equipment (whew that’s a mouthful!), more small-scale innovation and adaptability is achievable. To state it plainly, I think low-cost, multi-use, portable infrastructure and equipment is the way to go.
That wraps up the explanation of our mission here at Fockler Creek Farms. I hope the tenets of our philosophy serve as some good food for further discussion and contemplation. If you have any questions about our mission statement feel free to send an email our way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Brian D. Wosepka