Bumper sticker spotted on a pick-up truck: “Kids who hunt, fish and trap don’t mug little old ladies.”
The point of the bumper sticker is this: Kids who have chores and responsibilities don’t have time to get into trouble. They aren’t hanging around a parking lot coming up with creative, and possibly criminal, ways of relieving their boredom.
So allow me to make a bold statement: We need to return to our farm ways.
It’s not enough for people to live in rural areas and extol the benefits of living in a rural community. We need to be farming again. We need to start raising our own food and helping our neighbours once more. We need to have gardens and compost to spread, a few chickens and warm eggs to collect, maybe even a goat and milk to turn into cheese. We were hunters and gatherers a lot longer than we’ve been programmers and emailers; it’s time to rediscover the wisdom that comes from the sky and the ground, not the screen and the app.
Always drink upstream from the herd.
The good old days were not necessarily better but we’ve lost too many of the good old ways that came from farming. When animals and crops and gardens depend on you showing up and doing the work, when your family depends on you showing up and doing the work, you grow up with a connection to the land, to the product and to the people around you. You learn to be responsible; you learn to appreciate the results of your labour.
When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
If you are busy cleaning stalls and coops, feeding cattle and kidding goats, fixing machinery and mending fences, there isn’t time to think up ways to get into trouble. After a long day at school or work, you come home to chores that must be done; that doesn’t leave any time or energy for stealing cars or vandalizing gazebos.
Of course, a return to farming will not make our world problem-free but driving your father’s Oldsmobile through a cornfield while drinking beer is a far cry from setting fire to empty buildings. There’s testing limits and learning lessons, and then there’s criminal nuisances with too much time on their hands.
When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you have to do is stop digging.
I’m not saying we trash our cities and towns and all become farmers, even though there is a whole lot of decent land lying fallow; I’m saying the balance is tipped too far on the urban side of the scale; we’re so off-balance, in fact, we’re losing sight of our long-time rural roots and truly, we lose our farming DNA at our own human peril.
Granted, not everyone can be a farmer and there have always been people who lived in town but every kid needs to experience work that involves dirt, water and the one thing we can’t live without – food. At the very least, we need community gardens that support the local food bank and those gardens should be the responsibility of young people. Community gardens will teach them three things: 1) how easy and vital it is to grown food, 2) how to see a project through and learn from what works and what doesn’t, and 3) how to make an effort on behalf of someone other than yourself.
You’re less likely to trash the community garden – or allow it to be trashed – if you’ve had a hand in creating it.
Think I’m crazy? Think farming is old-fashioned and out-of-touch with the new age of apps-for-that and power bars and cars that parallel park on their own?
So tell me: What work is there that teaches us as much as farming does?
Life is simpler when you plough around the stump.