In an attempt to explain what seems to be the seed of a cosmic shift in how farming is practiced and portrayed in America, I offer you my story:
I’m 26 years old, and after a three year stint working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and navigating the concrete jungle, I needed out.
I was interested in much more than a career change. My mind, my body, my immune system, my belief system, my soul, my skin, and my fingertips—every piece of me began aching to evacuate the city immediately.
Without any major physical ailments or health concerns to speak of, my ill feelings inspired me to reexamine what I, as a human being, truly needed to get by. All the things I felt I needed—fresh food raised naturally, exercising and sweating in the sun, getting dirt under my nails, breathing fresh air, walking on earth, feeling accomplished by my labor—these very personal things I craved were being hustled, bustled, and trampled on by my own over-stimulated, under-satisfied, never-sleeping, big apple life.
Exposed to organics, local farmers, and the flourishing Brooklyn farm-to-table restaurant scene, I had gotten a taste of what was possible and there was no turning back. I was hooked—something from deep inside me began to slowly bubble towards the surface.
As I looked around me–whether it be America as a whole, a particular state I was in, the strangers sitting across from me on public transit, or even my closest loved ones–I’ve seen that we are becoming a sick people. Fat and obese people everywhere, widespread learning disabilities amongst children, and cancers riddling away entire family trees are now cultural norms.
Finally there came a point in time (about a year ago to the day) when I refused to continue going along for the ride. There are wrongs—serious wrongs—being committed to our land, to our people, and to our freedoms on a daily basis at the grocery checkout counter. The expression “you are what you eat” is no old wives’ tale, it’s pure truth. At any given second our cells are dying and new ones are being reproduced using whatever we put in our mouths. Do you want to replace your dead cells with nutrient dense vegetables and healthy, well-balanced animal fats—or processed and packaged toxins?
Organics pioneer, Sir Albert Howard, wrote in his 1943 book An Agricultural Testament, “artificial manures lead inevitably to artificial nutrition, artificial food, artificial animals, and finally artificial men and women.” This cycle is an ever-worsening situation for our country, and it realizes an unholy amount of cash flow for the nation’s worst perpetrators against the public health and well-being.
Young people everywhere are living with these effects first hand. The drastic changes, consolidations, short cuts, and widespread use of drugs and chemicals in conventional agriculture have all taken place right under our grandparent’s noses. Food did not used to be like this, and the older generation is our witness. While old timers can cheerfully reminisce about the days when they had chickens out back, or picked berries with their papa, people my age are first beginning to bear the true consequences of industrialized food. Young people can see it in their broken families, in their autistic sisters, and in their asthmatic cousins who survive on diets of fruity pebbles and Ritalin. We see it, and we want to change it.
For the first time in many generations there is an uprising of young men and women stepping onto America’s fields, digging into earth, and making a sustainable and satisfying life for themselves. We are doing it not only because we want to, but because we need to. We are passionate, we are educated, and we are on a mission to heal our communities, our families, the land, and ourselves.
And so, from Wall Street one day, to rural Georgia the next, I am currently farming under the tutelage of farmer/restaurateur Jason Mann. Through our vegetable wing, Full Moon Farms, and our pasture raised meat cooperative, Moonshine Meats, we feed the community through a successful community supported agriculture (CSA) program, as well as supplying Jason’s two farm-AND-table restaurants that please both mouths as well as minds (Farm255 in Athens and Farm Burger in Decatur).
I’d like to close this post with a quote from a fellow young farmer, and good friend, that I think embodies the spirit of our movement. This was the closing to a farewell email he wrote on his departure from our Athens community: “It may not seem like it all the time, but our paths are both humble and righteous, and we cannot go wrong.”