People sometimes tell us that farming is a lot of work and ask why we don’t just buy that stuff at the grocery. There are several reasons.
When we first came to St. Francis Farm in 2001 we struggled to feed ourselves and our guests, as money was tight and little food had been produced in the chaos of transition. Beginning in 2002 we focused on growing and preserving food so that we could feed ourselves and have something to share with neighbors. Since 2006 we’ve sent vegetables, herbs and soft goat cheese to a local soup kitchen, and in 2018 we started donating vegetables to the Pulaski Community Cupboard. Late summer bounty is distributed to area churches and assorted neighbors. As the economic system grows less stable, more people are interested in learning to provide necessities for themselves and their neighbors. As Wendell Berry writes in What Matters, “A home landscape enables not only personal subsistence but also generosity. It enables community to exist and function.”
We have hosted migrant workers injured on commercial farms and learned about the untenable working conditions of the people who grow the food we buy. When the work of food production is done by a tiny fraction of the population those people are apt to be overworked and exhausted. When more people grow their own food the amount of work is more manageable and can be grounding and health-giving rather than debilitating.
We are also aware of the environmental damage caused by large-scale farming, including the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides, the compaction and erosion of topsoil, and the use of large quantities of climate-altering fossil fuels to power machines and produce petrochemical fertilizers. Growing our own food allows us to live more sustainably.