I’m working on glasraí farms in Lehinch Ireland as a WWOOFer (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Aoife and Joe are the owners of a start up farm with the ideal that their practices will be better for the environment than standard organic practices. At the moment, they are growing potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, kale, zucchini, cucumber, beans, and a variety of leafy greens with the hopes that next season – with another polytunnel and shed being built – they will double their crops by this time next year. Their practices are holistic, and ideas about how to save the humans on this world are realistic. While raising their small child, Aoife and Joe are doing their best to contribute to the image of the world they want to see for their child and children like her.
After only being here a short while, I have eaten amazing food, and worked to the point of exhaustion. I have come to the conclusion that I, as a filmmaker, have no right to have opinions about farmers and the methods they practice. In class, especially during global seminar food, we have created ideas and opinions in our heads about food and what it would take to feed the world. I had made opinions and judgements about traditional farmers without even realizing it. Before I came here, I would condemn traditional farmers and wonder why they farmed the way they did without any care for the environment or the chemicals that the consumer would eat. I would wonder why anyone would farm traditionally, for it wouldn’t take much to all of a sudden switch to collectively farm organically.
What do I – a 20 year old film student – have anything productive to say about farming to a 75 year old dairy farmer who has been milking cows since they were sixteen? I visited Joe’s father’s conventional dairy farm and helped Joe milk some of the cows while his father was away. This is their life, he will stand in what looks a bit like a large cement trough and connect automatic milkers to over sixty cows twice a day. This will take him at least five hours, and that is a fairly small operation. The farm is only able to keep going being of its 100 plus cows kept for meat. The cows have much room to graze, and seem to be happy. I have heard of much worse operations, but after helping for just a bit, I have realized I have no grounds to judge. A way of life cannot be judged by someone who knows nothing about it. I don’t agree with drinking milk, in-fact I’m lactose intolerant, but milk is Joe’s father’s life. It is what makes him him. When people ask what he does, he will answer, I milk cows.
My opinions about how to farm sustainably should not be used to judge those who have built their lives upon conventional farming. The world has changed around them, and perhaps Joe’s father started with only 15 cows and that suited him fine. The world grew larger and he had to change his methods to meet the demands. Before my generation, he was farming just fine, the world was alright. But things change, and who am I to blame him for changing?
As a filmmaker, you may be wondering what I’m doing on any type of farm. Along with gathering footage for a film I plan to submit to 30(ish) Frames Per Second: A Yellow Springs Film Festival a film and video festival that I am organizing and hosting for my senior project, I am also learning to live the way that I want to when I leave Antioch. I am building polytunnels to grow things throughout the winter. I spend an entire morning spraying crops with a tea made from horsetail that keeps the nightshades from getting blight. I am helping roof a barn, and make a stone wall without cement. I am living in a house that gets all of its water from the rain, and heat its water with solar panels. If I want to be the generation that makes a difference in the world, I cannot wonder why people like Joe’s father does not become organic. I can not try to change the people who have established their lives mono-cropping corn in Ohio. I can only learn from their children who wish to farm differently because their lives are not wholly connected to conventional farming the way their parents are.
This experience has not only given me insight into how I want to live my life, but how I frame my thoughts. It is up to me to do what I think is right, and then when I miscalculate and mess up, it will be up to my children to learn from my mistakes. There are many things at play with farming, and it would unfair not consider the farmer in the equation when we think about feeding the world as we often do. The farmer is pushed to the corner of our minds and left to bend to the wants and wills of the consumer. I will do my best to grow my own food, and live sustainably. I will do my best to incorporate these thoughts and ideologies into my filmmaking. I will do my best to live the life I want to see in the world. But I know that I will not be farming for the consumer. I will not have to answer to the constantly growing demands, and wonder if what I’m doing is what I want to do. I will do my best not to judge those before me, but instead learn from them, and perhaps respectfully disagree, while still understanding what they do is their life. I want to open my mind, and I want to do what I can to fix the humans living on this world. That is what this co-op has taught me.
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