The Nurturance of Nature

While Oren and I were cruising on Sunday, he brought up and explored the interesting question of whether vegetable farmers and animal farmers have different body types. He made the argument that they do; by manner of function as much as physiology. He reasoned that a little bit of extra bulk may suit animal farmers well for the inherent pushing and muscling that is required in animal husbandry, but vegetable farmers sweat, bend and walk too much to tolerate any extra mass than absolutely necessary. Regardless of the gray-area truth of the matter, I take it more as a matter of nature over nurture. In what way do our natures, including natural body type, drive our life’s direction, and to what degree are we shaped by these decisions? For that matter, what is it that draws us to farming in the first place? Is it really a perceived deficiency or need in the world, as we may so often argue? Or could it be a perceived deficiency within ourselves, and an underlying need for a substantial change in our natures?

This question brings to mind Josh Trought: the founder, visionary, and workhorse of D Acres Permaculture Homestead in New Hampshire. Twenty five years of muscling the rugged New Hampshire landscape into shape has in turn has shaped a mountain of a man; and his time of pig powering, oxen driving, and stone picking is evident in his aura and action. An absolute beast, Josh accomplishes more in a day than three average men, and expresses himself more fluently through work than words. He once shared with us a bit of the D Acres inception story, and the abandonment of all of his other partners during frigid winters in the tiny attic where they started; surrounded on all sides by cold, relentless New Hampshire granite and snow. Over these years of unyielding persistence, his toughness has transformed the world around him to a vibrant and lively space, and his body to a temple. Underneath the hard exterior is a gentle man, from whom a worldly compassion has drawn a life of selfless planet restoration; transforming his body’s natural power into a landscape more sustainable “for the next 500,000 years.”

D acres
John Planting

And then there is the gentleman John Sheffy, shepherding his flock in Bancroft, WI. Years of nurturing land and mammal has drawn from him a radiating gentleness and kindness, evident to all with the fortune of crossing his path. To witness him interacting firsthand with his pigs, goats and chickens is a true blessing and inspiration, and whether he’s patiently bottle-feeding a sick young goat, or taking a true and honest moment of consideration for every person who visits his farmers’ market stand for a cup of coffee, John moves with a natural presence, patience and kindness from which we all benefit.

I could go on and on: from Uncle Ben at Wild Folk Farm singing sweetly to the ducks in his rice paddies, to David Peterson at Maplewood Gardens, pouring every bit of his soul into active compassion and nurturance for tiny tomatoes and peppers. These people are inspirational to me, and have been pivotal in my development and path into farming. While I could level any number of logical and moral reasons behind my attraction to the farming lifestyle, the truth of the matter may well lie in the example that these people have unknowingly set. Maybe somewhere, deep down, I realize that I need a little more Josh Trought toughness, John Sheffy tenderness and Oren Jakobsen attention in my nature. Maybe the closest distance between who we are and who we desire to be is the lifestyle we choose.

uncle ben