A lifetime ago, I waded through Malaysian government bureacracy and countless trips, meetings, and visits to work in a remote national park in the interior of Borneo. The process took weeks, and not every day of my time living with communities learning to farm on forest edges was smooth, or rewarding. Many days I slept shoulder to shoulder on the floors of forest huts before long days of planting. One night a wild boar ate my sandals.
But I will always remember one day: I walked far upriver along a trail that to harvest fruit tree seedlings - we called them wildlings. Rather than going back the same way, our party split. Part of the party left to go hunting; the other part jumped in long boats to glide back downriver to the community. The boats were a bit full, and though of course my friends would have made room for me, I elected instead to mostly float alongside the boats, sometimes grabbing on to the low-slung carved out hardwood hulls, but most of the time just drifting. Along the way we beached one of the boats, with help of a group of women, and scrambled up the steep embankment and collected tapioca leaves and forest ferns for dinner.
Back at camp, when we pulled up to the banks of the village, I realized that I was no longer afraid of river snakes that sometimes swam along side me, leeches, dengue. I had come to know them and lived. I was free, food secure, happy, without worry. This was so so different than my first years farming, here, digging in. I was often worried, scared, and not who I want to be.
This morning, on NPR, I woke up to some new predictions of climate change. By mid-century we may easily see a two degrees rise in temperature and by the end of the century, we could see up to four degrees. That's almost catastrophic, and it's certainly detrimental agricultrual options worldwide. While some of the physics of this equation we can't stop, we can focus on the human solutions, building a food secure community that is strong, resilent, and embraces one another just like it embraces new farming practices.
All new farms, including ours, place an emphasis on infrusturcture. We've been doing that these past years. But sometimes I feel that we all neglect our social infrusturcture.
That's why we have The Eatership. For the past several years, we've been steadily growing the amount of food we subsidize for members of our community. We believe that that everyone, regardless of income or status or lifestyle, should be able to have access to organic, fresh, local produce for our entire growing season.
Through farm donations, we raised $2200 last year to subsidize farm feedbags for seven farm members. We made the choice of who received membership assistance based on donations (our farm chipped in too) and our simple, self-reported, need based application. The majority of the Eatership applicants paid some share of their farm membership, so this money is just not an all out gift. We think of this as a partial scholarship.
As we mature, we'd like to expand this program, and we see this as a program that could be scaled, to eventually include all farms in the Bitterroot that offer a farm membership program. We have two local not for profit organizations in mind that would be suitable partners to manage this program, we have a starter grant in mind that would help fund some of the administrative fees for the management that our greater community could run.
Raising donations of $4000 this season can help prove to our community of supporters and businesses that this program is scaleable and deserves more capital - both the human capital to run it and the funds to help create a better world, with secure access. This is something that keeps me motivated to farm. It's something I think about every day, whether working on a tool tool, cultivating, seeding, working on our crop plan or encountering a snake in our gardens.