One of the central reasons we farm is because we care deeply about the preservation of soil, open spaces, and a healthy environment. It is ironic, then, to realize how dramatically the act of farming alters a landscape.
One of my favorite things to do in our first season here in Lebanon, was to sit on the hilltop overlooking our lower field. I would go there intending to read or write during a precious free moment, but more often than not I’d just sit and watch. That lower field was blanketed in perennial grasses, scrubby Multiflora Rose bushes and Autumn Olive saplings. The insect life, the bird flight, the spectrum of every green known to man, was mesmerizing. After long enough, all the busy creatures would forget I was there, and go about their pollen collection, nest building, seed spreading without a care for me there watching.
Of course, that lower field also contains a flat ¾ acre field of Sudbury fine sandy loam soil, ideal for fall vegetable cropping. That lower field is where the pines fell as we worked to gain better access to our irrigation pond, leaving brush piles and lumber in their wake. That lower field is a perfect pasture for our 2 milking goats who adore munching down Multiflora Rose and Autumn Olive brush.
When I sit above my lower field now, I am engaged by the excitement of an expanding farm: the pine beams neatly stacked in anticipation of a timber-framed cabin project; the rye cover crop sprouting on the harrowed ground where next season’s garlic crop will be planted; The shiitake mushroom logs piled in the shade of the hedge row.
The space has been changed – the beautiful things there now are man (and woman) made, and the wild feel has been tamed. It is my luck that we live adjacent to 1,000+ acres of state woodland – plenty of space for the birds and bees to frolic as we reclaim our lower field.
But the fact remains that even we, who oppose the pillage model of agribusiness and monolithic conventional farms, must acknowledge the effect that our work has on the ecosystem of our precious 6 acres. And what a good reminder it is to be wise in our growth as a farm: to build in wild spaces around the neat rows of vegetables, to plant new trees as we take down those in our way, and to appreciate what is here while it is here.