Returning the Social to Agriculture

We live in exciting and challenging times in which we must adapt to weather changes and water shortages. Look to your local community for programs like this. One that I know of is the Paradise Grange Community Garden. You can contact Debbie at 530-413-3974 for more information on what they’re doing and what might be possible in your community. A special thanks to Pyramid Michael for letting me know about this community garden. Lotus Guide

by Craig Gibsone and Jan Martin Bang

For many thousands of years, we lived in farming villages, worked the land, and celebrated the round of the seasons as part of our religious, spiritual and cultural life. Jan lived for many years on a kibbutz in the center of Israel, and on the ancient city mound, only a half hour walk away, was found one of the very first pieces of written Hebrew, dating back about 3,000 years.

            This was called the Gezer Calendar, and can be seen in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. It is indeed an agricultural calendar, marking the passing of the seasons, something that was familiar to the members of the kibbutz so many millennia later.

permaculture            Today, with just over half the people on this planet living in cities, many of us have lost this connection to the rhythms of the year and the seasons. And the loss has not been so positive. In doing so, we are cut off from nature, it’s become harder for us to appreciate what an abundance she gives us, and we have the archetypal situation where children think that milk comes from boxes in the supermarket rather than from cows being milked.

            One strategy that is developing a new relationship between the grower and the consumer is the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, which is experiencing large growth rates in the western world. A variety of forms have been developed, ranging from the more casual Farmer’s Markets, to groups of people in the city buying a farm and hiring a farmer to grow food for them.

            Most CSAs consist of a membership group who commit to buying a box of kitchen-ready seasonal vegetables that they receive each week or month.

            One of the interesting side effects of CSAs is the social effect. Many CSA farms have open days when members are encouraged to gather together with their children, and celebrate some aspect of the year. Harvest festivals are a big hit here.

            Children see farms at work, discover how crops and animals are tended, and get to taste safe, chemical free food straight off the land. This celebration of the seasons and of nature’s abundance is not necessarily a spiritual exercise in itself, but is part of the hidden side of Permaculture design.

            Not only do we get good nutritious food, but in addition we find ways of getting together socially that do not cost a lot of money, and are not subject to exploitation. Bringing the social back into agriculture is in itself a way of creating a more aware and contented community.

Devas, Nature Spirits and Good Compost

Working with the land in a conscious way has been a key element in the evolution of the Findhorn Foundation community since the earliest days. Indeed it was probably the aspect of the community that attracted more interest than any other. The three founders received spiritual guidance that they should start a garden on the sand dune where their caravan was located (as it still is), in spite of the lack of soil.

            There began a synthesis of approaches, which is still significant today. They brought together a spiritual source of information through Dorothy Maclean’s communication with spiritual beings she called the devas of each particular plant species. They also absorbed the latest ideas in organic farming as researched by Peter Caddy as well as information from experienced local gardeners.

            The result was superb vegetables coming out of this inhospitable sand dune and people coming from all over the world to see them. Today the Findhorn gardeners mostly do not claim such direct communication as Dorothy received, but are all committed to developing the intuitive side of their relationship to plants. Dorothy, still, constantly, confirms the importance of everyone developing their own understanding and intuition in ways that are natural to them.