I’m at this moment sitting at a crooked table at the top of a knoll, in the shade of an oak tree near the 101 freeway in California. It's Ridgewood Ranch, owned by Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule, a religious non profit founded in the 1940’s once fully self-sufficient with its own dairy, beef herd, tannery, shoe-maker, quarry, fuel-alcohol distillery, soap factory, micro-hydro power plant and thriving communitarian economy. The Church mission: “We try our best each day to provide a working model that shows that The Golden Rule can be expressed in every facet of daily life, and that by so doing, harmony and equality can be achieved.” Ridgewood Ranch, now only 5,000 acres (compared to originial 16,000+), presents a fascinating case-study in land-commoning; through the Mendocino Land Trust, a conservation easement will protect the ranch in perpetuity. (Yes, Ridgewood was also home to Seabiscuit, the beloved racehorce, an underdog winner during the Great Depression and subject of feature film).
Ridgewood Ranch’s unique approach means, unlike many ranch-owners, they are open to the initiatives of the next generation. One of these is the young farmer enterprise called the Grange Farm School, who've been generously hosting a little cluster of us Greenhorns for “an editorial sprint.” Charlie, Norah and I are working to finish, polish, edit and spit-shine the 2015 New Farmers Almanac in time for printing, binding, boxing and shipping!
PRE-ORDER YOUR ALMANAC now and help us sleep calmly in the face of its great expense! You can read more about the new New Farmers Almanac online, it'll be $20 bucks plus shipping, more information coming soon! click click
Speaking of technology, it’s a major honor to sit on a panel with Vandana Shiva at the Techno-Utopia Conference October 25-26 at Cooper Union in NYC. I am honored to participate in a number of events this month, starting at this weekend’s Bioneers Conference!
Upcoming speaking engagements
Millions of Acres: Young Agrarians Needed
**Other Panels at Bioneers:
Re-Localizing the Food System
Citizen Science: DIY Knowledge To and From the People
**Tuesday Oct 21
American Farmland Trust in Lexington, Kentucky
Young Farmers - Opportunities and Constraints
**Sunday Oct 26
Panel on globalization with Vandana Shiva at TEACH-IN: TECHNO-UTOPIANISM & THE FATE OF THE EARTH at Cooper Union in NYC
**Tuesday Nov 11
Keynote (opening for Vandana Shiva) at Slow Money National Gathering in Louisville, Kentucky.
**Friday Nov 14
New Farmer Roundtable discussion at the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN) and FarmStart Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia! The Roundtable is a partnership of FarmStart, along with Food Secure Canada and the Canadian National Farmers' Union Youth Coalition.
Erupt in Song! Intergalactic Agrarian Mix-tape
At Greenhorns events this fall, and until we run out, we’re selling copies of the Intergalactic Agrarian Mix Tape, a collaboration with our friends at the Land Workers’ Alliance. Its also online for free! Thanks to the wonderful efforts of Audrey Berman, assistant manager at Sisters Hill Farm, and Daniel Burston in the UK, thanks to all the old folk, new folk, singers and song-carriers for keeping the agrarian revolt alive and humming.
Grange Future tour is upon us!
The tour celebrates the long history of the grange movement, and studies the relevance of this farmers' fraternal organization as a logical, local, and community-scale venue for political organizing, potlucking, moral education, leadership + cultural life. As you likely know, the grange grew up as a platform for anti-monopoly legislative action by farmers against the railroads and was a major force in women's suffrage, cooperative enterprise development and rural free mail delivery. Today's grange revival echoes these same themes: food preservation, buying clubs, contra-dance, GMO labeling campaigns, local food/farm education + film screenings, farmers mixers.
Starting up north in Mendocino County, in partnership with the Grange Farm School, Jen Griffith, Audrey Berman, Severine v T Fleming, Christin Ripley, Ruthie King and a few others have all been busy bees preparing our “GRANGE FUTURE TRAVELING EXHIBIT,” which also features work of the Beehive Collective, Hudson Valley Seed Bank, Rural Academy Theater, and many other great talents!
Grange Future Tour CALIFORNIA DATES:
Dec 2-4 - Little Lake Grange
Dec 7- Fort Bragg Grange
Dec 8-9 - Grass Valley Grange
December 10 - Anderson Valley Grange
Dec 12-14 - Sebastopol Grange with Farmers Guild
Dec 19 - Live Oak Grange, Santa Cruz
January 20 - @Asilomar for Eco Farm Conference + Young Farmers Mixer
Stay tuned for more Southern and South-western, and then North Eastern Grange Future Tour Dates. This obsession is likely to continue for a while--we’ve been recording, memorizing, and spontaneously belting out aloud on car-trips these old-timey Grange songs performed by Brian Dewan. We’re recording another set of tracks in November at the Keeseville Grange. And here are the songs from last year.
These’s a micro-version of the Grange Future Presentation online & a whole website grangefuture.org dedicated to celebrating the history and revival of the ‘grange idea.’
The grange idea.
It is is the idea of Fraternity, of kinship and solidarity with one’s fellow man. Carey McWilliams called it "a bond based on intense interpersonal affection."
It’s the idea of democratic intellectual life, with rural lectures, book clubs, public speaking and adult learning.
It’s the idea of a moral family, moral household, and moral economy
It’s the idea of freedom from monopoly, speculation, the oppression of boom and bust
It is the idea of improving the living conditions, beauty
It’s the idea of cooperation and unity, prosperity and equality
And that of solvency instead of debt. The grange is a communitarian (rather than charity) model for community improvement.
The mission of the Grange:
“To develop a better and higher manhood and womanhood among ourselves; to enhance the comforts and attractions of our homes, and strengthen our attachments to our pursuits; to foster mutual understanding and cooperation; to maintain inviolate our laws, and to emulate each other in labor, to hasten the good time coming; to reduce our expenses, both individual and corporate; to buy less and produce more, in order to make our farms self-sustaining; to diversify our crops and crop no more than we can cultivate; to condense the weight of our exports, selling less in the bushel and more on hoof and in fleece, less in lint and more in warp and woof; to systematize our work, and calculate intelligently on probabilities; to discountenance the credit system, the mortgage system, the fashion system, and every other system tending to prodigality and bankruptcy.
We propose meeting together, talking together, working together, buying together, selling together, and, in general, acting together for our mutual protection and advancement, as occasion may require. We shall avoid litigation as much as possible by arbitration in the Grange. We shall constantly strive to secure entire harmony, goodwill, vital brotherhood among ourselves, and to make our Order perpetual. We shall earnestly endeavor to suppress personal, local, sectional, and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry, all selfish ambition. Faithful adherence to these principles will insure our mental, moral, social and material advancement.”
Yes, it was a Victorian-era, predominantly white order, and one that failed to create an enduring 3rd political party. But the legacy of the Grange lives on in its thousands of grange halls and facilities, and in my tiny town, the building that once housed a Grange Cooperative, is now the only organic grain mill in north country. It’s a bit like the Ridgewood Ranch in that way. I guess my take is, these minority cultures can gain some ground, and that ground is available, and hospitable to the next iteration. Find a grange near you!
Contemporary Grange expressions and actions of the Grange include: Seed libraries, buyers clubs, co-packing facilities, movie-nights, cooperative grain storage, pancake breakfasts, anti-GMO legislation, historic preservation, family-oriented cultural programming, populist puppet shows, and plain old potlucks, bake-sales, barbeques and bean suppers.
Kinship and politics
I’ve been reading a wonderful FAT book by Carey McWilliams, a book that grew out of his thesis, its called The Idea of Fraternity in America. Along with it, the books by Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone, and Making Democracy Work. These books offer a great historical analysis of the dynamic between village-scale Kinship and state/national-scale politics, the roles for each, and their relationship with one another. It’s almost like politics is the corral where auctions and compromises and firm decisions are taken, where the animals are doctored and evaluated. And Kinship is more like the source, the wild western landscape where the cattle range freely. Kinship as a process, is a bit like the commons. Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey decimal system, gave a similar analys of knowledge. He urged his fellow librarians to treat the library not as a ‘resevoir, but rather as a fountain.’ Home on the range, or down in the stacks, it seems the relationship of kinship and polictics, and the joinery, between parts of the system deserves our attention.
What is the relationship between kinship and politics? How does one support and feed the other, and what kind of reciprocity can we expect between the trophic layers, or stripes of lava, of a shifting, roiling morph of expanding non-homogeny across the land?
It may be that this kinship layer is a prerequisite for developing a more bio-regionally appropriate kind of politics:“[N]etworks of relationships of trust promote the growth and development of the economy in a given region, they also allow issues to be discussed more rationally than is possible when politics is conducted primarily through large, impersonal intermediaries such as national membership organizations and the mass media,” says Carey McWilliams.
As Putnam wrote in Making Democracy Work, "virtuous circles result in social equilibria with high levels of cooperation, trust, reciprocity, civic engagement, and collective well-being." But the reverse is also true: "the absence of these traits in uncivic community is also self-reinforcing. Defection, distrust, shirking, exploitation, isolation, disorder, and stagnation intensify one another in a suffocating miasma of vicious circles."
This kind of discourse is useful in pursuing a nature-study of this peaceful insurrection, the layer-cake of our movement. As direct action agrarians, who also organize and agitate for reform, it seems like we should be capable of reflection, introspection and analysis. How do these movements, and parts of movements feed one another, build and reflect, retort, wobble and schism, and then correct course?
We know that some people are more inclined towards advocacy, to performing synapse-duty in the phone-tree of representative democracy, others are more comfortable as hostesses and mother-duck. Some are visionary rabble rousers, some drop in for the the occasional crystalline Opinion and to sweep the floor. We have the professional types, the hybrid homestead + NGO’ers, we have whiz kid techno-addicts, luddites, click click linkers, historians, contrarians, sweetie pie hetero-normative CSA dream-teams, drama queens and coop-makers. We have the trash collectors, and bull dogs, and surly mermaids. We have a lot of kinds of us, and we are all valuable contributors.
In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam looked at the loss of “social capital” and the neighborly associative micro-groups, bowling leagues across America. He urges us to do better together. Social capital, he reminds us, is self-respect enough to hold up our end of the collective well-being, it isn’t something that was built once and will serve us forever, it has to be made new, updated and restored by all who use it. Thomas Jefferson would agree:
Not cities proud, with spires and turrets crown’d
No: men, high-minded men;
Men who their duties know
But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain.
These constitute a state.
We hope you will express your own preference of association in joining the team most logical to you. For some of you this means joining the Grange.
“So, you Wanna Be A Farmer?”
Speaking of Fraternity….
For all of you young ones, the greenest Greenhorns, still in highschool or college, or with little sisters and brothers in college-- sisters and brothers who are not yet up and into agriculture-- we’ve put together a little program of materials just for you! As you may remember, Greenhorns first found many of you because of our documentary film. Now, we’ve gathered up bouncy apron-full of 13+ new farmer films to screen on campuses across the country as the Up Up Farm! Film Festival.
We find our Up Up Farm! films and shorts inspiring as well as useful, especially when it comes to finding your first job in food or farming. We’ll be distributing them along with a bundle of publications and other Greenhorns bling, including the 2015 New Farmers Almanac (hot off the press in mid November!). Now is a great time to get in touch with campus coordinators about a Spring farmer film fest. Email us at email@example.com to get more info about bringing this film festival to your College or University!
The film festival will be part of a greater multi-media campaign targeting college campuses, and we’ve partnered up with our friends at Good Food Jobs again for this one (they also host episodes of our webseries Ourland.TV). But we still need much help, especially from college students on the ground! Please send us your little brothers, sisters and bright shining interns. We’re in it for more than just getting our books and such out into the hands the youth, we want their bodies and brains and friendships and leadership as well. It’s kinship --a high touch relationship-- we’re looking for... on a campus near you.
Severine + Team
Thank you to all,
Charlie Macquarie, Almanac 2015 managing editor
Ines Chapela, Assistant director
Brooke Werley, Agrarian Trust web coordination
Ann Marie Rubin, Agrarian Trust, Agrarian Lawyers
Tyler Christie, Our Land editor
Evan Driscoll, Radio producer
Jen Griffeth+ Christian Ripley+ Ginny Maki+Paula Brooks, Grange Future project
Anne Dailey, Eliza Greenman, Blog
Audrey Berman, Intergalactic mix-tape
Brian Dewan, Grange Song recordings
Brooke Budner, Illustrations for guidebooks
Louella Hill, Henry Tarmy, Bruce Forrester, Norah Hoover, New Farmers Almanac 2015
James Most, Chestnut Agroforestry project (Thanks to Nutiva)
Tim Humphrey, Chris Roddy, Pete Land, tech team!