Why do you farm?

Snuggled up in our home after peeling off our winter coveralls having just come from feeding our sheep, I came across this lovely reflection from a fellow farmer called ‘Why We Farm’. As the days are now getting longer, on our farm, we find ourselves planning more and looking ahead to the coming season. But pausing to reflect on this bigger question is really important too.

To me, this question starts with another question that farmers ask themselves on a daily basis: ‘What most needs doing?”. While in a narrow frame, this question leads one to getting the chores done for the day, but asked in a larger frame, it gets down to thinking about what we really care about and why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Some people assume that people only act our of self-interest. They believe that people only care about themselves and are driven by makes them happy. But for the most part, this isn’t true of people. We have ‘Horizons of Caring’ that extend beyond on immediate self which provide motivation for the things we engage with.


Fig. 1 Horizons of Caring from The Human Venture Institute

Of the farmers that inspire me, what I see is that the reason they farm has to do with reaching for broader ‘Horizons of Caring’. While they care for themselves, their family and their community, they also care deeply about humanity and life. And when it gets down to it, they are asking themselves ‘What most needs doing for humanity and life?”. The answer to this comes in the form of farming practices that create healthy ecosystems and regenerative landscapes that will provide for future generations.

For many people in our society though, there are boundaries to their ‘Horizons of Caring’. Introducing people in our community with meaningful opportunities to engage with nature and farming, can help people break through those boundaries. It takes deep connection and it takes revealing to them the interconnectedness of the world we live in.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is inter-related. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the inter-related structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific Islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s handed to you by a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee in the morning, and that’s poured in your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured in your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured in your cup by West African. And then you reach for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, it is its inter-related quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the inter-related structure of all reality.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” The Lost Massey Lectures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *