I am about to embark on a big, exciting, daunting adventure that is (I hope) going to take me across the country and onto all sorts of farms. I’m calling the adventure Common Ground and here is the idea: Are there connections between what is known as organic/sustainable and conventional agriculture?
I’ll admit the question is pretty darn big, and within it there are lots of other, equally important questions like:
- Why do people go into agriculture?
- Why do they choose the form of agriculture that they do?
- What benefits (both spiritually and economically) have they gained?
- And conversely, what are the challenges they face?
- What drives them to live a life in agriculture?
There are a million other questions I can ask, but won’t bore you with the lists and lists I have. I ask these questions because I love agriculture, which to be honest was the last thing I thought I’d ever say. I love meeting and learning about the individuals who create the community of farmers across the country. I feel enriched and rewarded by learning the motivations they have for living a life connected to the ground and to the animals they care for. And I feel most excited about these discussions when I speak with the new generation of farmers, people my own age, who range from their early 20’s to their late 30’s.
But I ask these questions as well because I have become frustrated with the material available that discusses agriculture in America today; material that creates a divide of us versus them. The argument usually runs along these lines – you can either chose food that is local and organic or conventional and industrial. Life, however, has never run on an either/or scale and there are points where a commonality can be found.
Where is the middle ground?
How can an average consumer pick their way through the minefield that is becoming our food system? I think the answer comes from knowing the people who grow, tend and nurture the food that we use to nurture our families. And I want to get to know more about these people, these new farmers.
My first adventure is coming up at the end of March when I travel down to Virginia. In each state I visit, I plan to meet and interview two young farmers – one conventional and one organic/sustainable. By doing so, I hope to learn more about both sides of the debate and to find the areas of common ground between the two if for nothing else, so that I can plot my own course through the food system of today.
To learn more about the Common Ground project, click on the tab above. If you are (or know of) a young farmer who is excited about what they do and interested in being interviewed, feel free to contact me at: jjennings98 at gmail dot com.