A few weeks ago my partner, Elizabeth Wolf of Good Medicine Media, asked me to sit down for an interview about The Call of the Land. She began with a basic question:
Q: Why did you write the book?
A: I recognized two things: first, the severely depleted condition of our land and our Earth, and second, in conjunction with that, the great number of agrarian initiatives that have independently sprung up in North America, Europe, and elsewhere in the world. The book names endeavor after endeavor, from coast to coast. They take place on the level of individual households as well as neighborhoods, communities, churches, cities, and regions. The book offers up dozens upon dozens of examples of these positive initiatives.
For example, there’s Will Allen with Growing Power in Milwaukee. He has turned vacant city lots into dynamically productive gardens and created meaningful work for inner-city youths. They learn skills and have an opportunity to make an important contribution to the communities they’re a part of. I think of the literally thousands of CSAs that have sprung up in the USA since 1986 when I first began reporting on them and how they involve hundreds of thousands of individuals as shareholders and beneficiaries. In CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, individuals and families buy a share in a farm and receive a box of fresh produce at regular intervals during the season, weekly for example. The community shares the risks of farming with the farmer, and benefits from the bounty.
Then there’s the Quivira Coalition in New Mexico, which is creating network linkages among ranchers and environmentalists all across the West. Courtney White, the director, points out that these two groups have traditionally been at odds with each other. The Quivira Coalition creates an opportunity for them to recognize their common interests. After all, they both want the same thing: for the land to be healthy and productive.
I felt it was important to acknowledge all these independent initiatives — and there are thousands of them — as constituting a movement forward into the future: a positive, solution-based thrust forward. That thrust arises from an ancient and venerable foundation that is both pihilosophical and practical: agrarianism.What we have got now, with all the land and food initiatives considered both individually and networked, is an emerging 21st Century agrarianism. That’s the story I wanted to tell about with The Call of the Land.
Almost everything I’ve ever written, over a career of more than 35 years, has to do with the Earth, whether it’s directly addressing the subject of farming the land or through engagement with Native American spiritual elders who invariably make a giveaway of resounding insights about our land. It has been my consuming passion: taking care of the Earth which makes our lives possible.