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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Am I an Agrarian?

Over at St. George's Farm I came upon a link to this interesting article. The article itself is based at this intriguing website for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute whose mission statement is "Educating for Liberty." I shall have to explore that further.

Anyway, the article led to me to more seriously ask myself the question listed above. The answer? Sort of. I loved the section in which agrarianism is roughly defined wherein the author states that Wnedell Berry sees the agrarian worldview as the countervailing idea to industrialism. The industrial economy, he writes, constitutes the culture of “the one-night stand. ‘I had a good time,’ says
the industrial lover, ‘but don’t ask me my last name.’ Agrarianism rests, in contrast, on a culture defined by marriage, a long-term covenant of mutual care.

And the two principles of agrarianism as described by Lynn Miller: First, provide for the family [from the farm] and second, always be looking for ways to help family,
friends, and neighbors.

And I loved this: Agrarians assert that a flourishing life standardly incorporates...interdependence with neighbors in a geographically limited, relatively self-sufficient, intergenerationally stable community...and a measure of personal self-sufficiency through physical labor, preferably on one’s own property.

I also very much appreciate the noting of the important differences between being an agrarian and being an environmentalist. Victor Davis Hanson has made good work of showing these differences in his writing as well.

However, there is no shortage of complete nutroots who are into agrarianism. Attending the Sequim Farm Tours demonstrates this as well, for at one farm you feel like you are in a hippie commune and at another you feel like a real true red,white, and blue midwest farm. The contrast is stark, but...the shared ideals allow some sense of unity.

I part company with the nutroots when they start talking about the necessity of getting away from private land ownership...I mean I REALLY part company with them.
I, like many Americans, don't want to get away from the "Jeffersonian dream" of freehold land. You can keep your "communitarian understanding of property." I think it wholly unnecessary to be an proponent of agrarian ideals.

And let me also say that I do not think agrarianism and Ludditism necessarily go hand in hand...not at all. Furthermore, I am not one to try and sell the idea of agrarianism to others, I reckon you either see the benefits of it or you don't.

However, let me suggest that it may be the only viable solution to ending the terrible state of American agriculture today. As the article demonstrates, farmers are too often living off of what is essentially welfare. If I may quote myself from a different discussion that was an attempt to get red state farmers to understand that republicans are to blame for all their woes:

We have propped up the whole system with a sort of socialism. Again, the question is: why?

What went wrong with our agriculture such that this "must" be the case now. Farmers are asking these questions as well and if you KNOW a farmer, odds are you know someone who is fiercely independent and LOATHES the idea of having to live off of government "subsidies." And the details of those subsidies would drive each and every one of us to insanity.

But what can a dairy farmer do when consumers (that means you and me) demand that they (we) pay so little for their (our) milk? What do both republican and democratic senators do when their constituents would toss them out of the office if they actually had to start paying what their milk is actually worth? Of course no one stops to think that in the end we ARE actually paying for the real value of the milk...albeit it in the round about and stupidly inefficient means of TAXATION. To
be more specific: those making over a certain amount of money are in essence subsidizing the price of food for the rest of us. So that we can spend our money on really important things like iPODS, Play Stations, High Speed Internet, 3,000 channels of cable TV, and hybrid cars with DVD players.

Fact is...farmers are not stupid. Many realize that these problems in agriculture are best NOT solved by government...indeed...thus far both parties have done nothing but perpetuate the problem. The solution is frankly untenable: people need to pay the price for the cost it really took to bring their food to their table.

Thus, seeing no real AG solution in either party, the midwest farmer votes their values. Simple. Who are we (or rather wealthy coastal liberals) to criticize them when we (they) insist on thumbing through our (their) iPODS while eating a 35 cent PEACH in January.

Industrialization is NOT inherently bad, I don't believe. But it also doesn't mean it is best. I believe that humans are not doomed to slavery because of someTHING they do...but rather because we choose to allow someTHING within us to be subserviant to the someTHING we do. This is not a political problem to be solved, it is a problem of the soul that can only ever be solved (were it possible) by one individual and one family at a time decidedly to opt out of the "system of appetites" that drives industrialization to be our task master. No legislation will ever do this.

But the so called Agrarian movement can help. I just wish we could get away from the nutroots in the movement - or at least those who tend to drive it - so as to give broader appeal to the beautiful notions therein, without the silly baggage of reincarnation mother-earth life energy crap. So, am I an agrarian? Well I'm trying, but I guess I'd rather be more specifically termed a "Jeffersonian Agrarian."

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:14 PM [+]


Hmmm...yours truly listens to Orthodox podcasts on an iPod (obtained thanks to high-speed Internet), while eating a 35 cent peach in January. Of course, the peach came directly from an Eastern Washington farmer in September...it was frozen alongside the other local produce and the side of local, small-farm raised beef. Spiritual sustenance, agrarianism and frugality, thanks to technology.

Neighbors? Including the ones on our street whose (same-age) children have been cruel to my son for years? After ten years on our block, I count only three families as "safe" for my children to run to in case of emergency. A bit of mutuality is necessary for community. None of our community groups are geographically proximate.

Oh, and every time I "till our land", my back goes out. So I keep my back, and my weeds, and pay others to provide for my food (which I try to get locally).

Respectfully, it's not as simple as your agrarian authors might think.

By Blogger Liz in Seattle, at 9:27 AM  


Hi Liz,

Well I won't defend whatever it is you deem overly simplistic in the writings of the (as opposed to my) Agrarian authors...and as I said I will not be an evangelist for agrarianism. The authors (those mentioned) are in fact living their values and I've no idea to what degree they expect others to do the same...or even exactly the same...though surely they would like more people to value their decisions - and pay a good price for their produce no doubt. I am thankful to listen to their witness and apply to my own life accordingly as I see fit. Everyone's mileage varies I suppose you could say. But my post was not intended to suggest that everyone ought to be a full-on agrarian. But we ought to ask some questions about our farmland and about the fresh fruit and veggies on our table.

I think there is something to be said about seriously examining the system we participate in while considering what is truly valuable, expendable, and worthwhile in our own lives and what effect that has on others and our community. And, as a side...I don't think agrarians would suggest that everyone ought to be farmers. In fact, in the article this is noted. The idea is to radically shift our understanding of where and when our food gets to our tables and how much it costs. The pinnacle question is: have our affluent tastes (both in food and toys) played a big part in wrecking our agricultural system such that farmers cannot make a living farming.

I cannot fault them (agrarians) for considering a radical alternative that I myself find attractive. I also have an MP3 player (what can I say...no iPOD), high speed internet, and a PlayStation so I'm by no means judging people...rather I am asking myself about their necessity in my own life - particularly so since my budget probably ought to prohibit many of my toys in favor of healthier foods in support of healthier agrarian farms. I am perhaps a hypocrite?

I pass no judgments on other people's desire/need for nor benefit from them (iPODs cable TV or whatever). But besides this...as I noted, I don't believe being an agrarian means being a luddite. There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, except where we allow it to feed our passions...something it is quite adept at doing if we are not careful. To this degree I fear Luddites rather have a point...idle hands and all. Of course technology has not made the farmer's job easier...or at least not shorter. It simply drove food prices down and caused 100 acre farms to be meaningless. Now the family farmer must plow (with tractor) 1000 acres to be profitable - again thanks to government subsidies.

As a society, I think it patently insane that we pay heaps of cash for amazing toys, but our bowels would get in an uproar if we'd really have to pay what it cost to put food on our table - if for no other reason than it would take away from our toy money. I speak in the direction of a sort of nebulous societal whole. And in the end, we have to pay to sustain our agriculture through tax gathered welfare.

I wonder though...sometimes...and again I direct this to my life alone: when I think things "aren't that simple" if perhaps I am not myself the deciding factor in this being the case? I leave it to each of us on our own to decide the truth of this...or not...or in fact whether the question ought to even be asked...just as surely as I would never presume to suggest what someone else's needs or wants are. God forbid.

Well, I've babbled enough.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 12:10 PM  


Here's our compromise: Let's find a SIM-type game, where your character adopts an agrarian lifestyle. Watch as he tills the land, raises his organically fed livestock, and generally works his way into locally-grown nirvana.

We can spend hours playing our Xbox or PlayStation, and not feel guilty.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend...I imagine the garden is doing marvelously. :-)

By Blogger Liz in Seattle, at 3:57 PM  


Yes, no guilt indeed.

God has truly blessed us this September. I believe if this continues I will feel ready to handle the misery of our wet winters.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 7:44 PM  


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