To gather in celebration is a deep human joy, a critical element of life. When we come together the sum is more than its parts as we exchange love and good energy. It feels good to share in fellowship and effort, working or playing together.
I love to visit farmer friends because of the shared mindset that provides the foundation for our friendships. It is affirming for my life’s work in a way that is both practical and philosophical, a reinforcing of my values and goals.
The old saying that you can lose the forest for the trees is never so apparent as it is in farming. I get my head down and plow into the work so hard that it’s easy to lose sight of the broader perspective of why I do what I do. It is important to me to hold and share in community and human commonality.
Every farm visit is a series of lessons in context and proclivity. Recognizing the circumstances and unique aspects of an operation yields a deeper understanding and connection which fosters much learning. I come away every time with new information to apply to my craft, and I treasure the experiences.
To walk with friends and talk about farming is one of the highlights of my existence, a deepening of the ministry unto which we engage. Working in service to plants and animals is a journey of refinement of mission and method. Each season yields new lessons, new tools, new information.
The tools of the small farm have changed in the past few years as more human ingenuity has been applied to developing micro-scale farming techniques. Leaders in the field are fabricating new equipment while bringing new methods of production or preparation to bear. Information is available on many platforms with greater accessibility than at any time in human history. Agriculture is changing.
My farming methods are very different now then they were five years ago, and I expect the same will be true five years from now. It’s amazing to see how much technology and information have changed, how many step-by-step and ongoing anecdotal sources there are to explore, which brings us back to context.
Each person, each farm, carries a set of individual circumstances. Based on these criteria, each farm evolves along a specific path that is unique unto itself. That path is set yet fluid, solid yet dynamic. New information can shift a paradigm if I am able to see it for what it is.
It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut, to calcify in the belief of “this is how I do things”. I evolved a method based on what I thought at the time that it came up, but this doesn’t mean that it’s the best method. And how do I define “best”? What are the metrics by which I set my goals? These are the questions of “why” that set the course for development of the “what”.
I love to visit farms and see what others are doing, see how they are applying equipment that we each utilize, and seeing what things they are doing differently. There is solidarity in similarity but some of the most fertile ground is always in the edges, where our practices are different. These differences should be explored for the wildspaces that they are, with a keen eye for observation of that which is new and exciting.
When I enter this fertile space of difference I have to be very careful to observe and understand the broader circumstances. Context will define action in ways that may or may not make sense under different parameters. When I talk about irrigation systems or watering length I must also be aware of soil type and microclimate, temperatures and wind cycles.
There is much to any conversation that lives as foundation for understanding, some implicit and some explicit. I make assumptions about what I think I know, and the depth of my understanding is in relation to how well I have observed and paid attention. I crosscheck myself through conversation and learning, seeking out new and different sources.
To gather with friends is a deep pleasure in my life. To talk farming with other farmers is a sharing of vocation and calling that I treasure. I am glad for new lessons and look forward to applying them. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!
Casey O'Neill co-operates HappyDay Farms, a micro-diversified farm in northern Mendocino County, California. His family raises two acres of Sun+Earth and DEMPure Certified vegetables, poultry and medical cannabis in a small-farm setting while working towards sustainability. Casey is stoked about sharing food, medicine and cultivation techniques with others. He is passionate about representing small farmers and works to support Mendocino County policy-makers in crafting sensible regulations. Casey also serves on the board of Sun+Earth Certified. You can find his radio show podcast at HappyDay Farms - Farm and Reefer Report on iTunes or Soundcloud. You can also find out more about HappyDay Farms here: http://www.happydayfarmscsa.com, on Instagram @happydayfarms and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/casey.oneill.395/ or https://www.facebook.com/happydayfarmscsa/