Why did you begin farming?
I lived for a decade in Love Lane Cottage and Studio, Mousehole, on the Penwith Peninsula, Cornwall, England. When I learned that the cliff meadows, located at the end of our lane, were considered part of “the earliest ground in Britain,” how could I refuse?
Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change?
Always. As a child of the 1960s, not having been raised on a farm, I asked the most obvious question: Why would I disrupt the ecology of a place with substances I had no part in producing and with no knowledge of the long-term effects?
What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?
Facing the conservative stance of an intransigent system — relatively new, yet in the grip of a powerful industry — and adamantly resistant to change.
What do you enjoy most about farming?
Sun, wind, rain, the texture of soil, late light brilliant on the hedgerows, the sound of the air reflected through a hawk’s wings, the miracle of a tiny seed able to produce a 12-foot stalk, and a flower and food as nourishment. I also admire the shine on the steel shanks of the chisel plow.
What is your biggest current challenge?
Figuring out how to accept I cannot do it forever.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received about farming?
“Turn ‘em over rough, and let the wind and rain work on it (the soil) … .”
What learning opportunities have helped you become a better farmer?
Listening to those who have farmed this local soil; participating as a board member of NOFA-NY and through educational conferences, reading and working in collaboration with other farmers, extension and our dedicated apprentice farmers.
What do you see in store for the future of sustainable farming?
Youth, on the rise. They are smart, passionate and caring, and they are searching for an occupation with a hint of meaning. Here it is: to work with the land, as a part of the ecological community, to accept a role as citizen rather than as conqueror.
What is your favorite season?
So many. Because of the confluence of seeds, plants, people and planetary weather reaching some kind of equanimity. What a blessing!
What do you enjoy most about living on the land?
Sometimes a whisper from the land: “Thank you for being here.”
This article appears in the April 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.