FARMLAND MANIFESTO

We grew huge amounts of delicious food here for 4 years without incident, but the now-vacant lot needs a security camera to police it...

We grew huge amounts of delicious food here for 4 years without incident, but the now-vacant lot needs a security camera to police it…

I’m digging up the relics of another doomed garden. The garlic and onions that slipped through the cracks in our shovels last year, the hollyhocks Marty gave me that would finally set seed this year, that beautiful butter-yellow yarrow I don’t remember planting, Sarah’s grandma’s Irises, the sage we moved to this garden plot from the last one. The developer’s got a sign up now—in a few days or weeks or months they’ll start to build houses, erase our hand-dug furrows with big machines, scrape the topsoil, roll out the sod, put up a for sale sign. The new owners will have no evidence that there was once a beautiful organic garden where their house now sits. I pull the black-eyed susans next to the CSA pickup spot, cluck a nod of pity toward the purple orach sprouts that will never live to flower and reproduce.

If the bulldozers hold off, the dandelions will start blooming soon, followed by the vetch, giving much-needed pollen and nectar to hungry bees emerging from an exceptionally cold winter.

The garden that used to be here

The garden that used to be here

In the 9 years I’ve farmed, I’ve had 7 plots of land, and I’ve lost 4 of them for various urban reasons. Moving shouldn’t be as big a deal anymore (I don’t double dig my new farm plots with a shovel anymore like we did the first three), but every time it makes me melancholy. While my body scours the garden for any jewel that can be saved, I occupy my mind writing a love letter in reverse to the farming community, addressed to those who love local food, farms, and farmers, but aren’t necessarily farmers themselves.

It goes something like this:

I want to believe, like you do, that we’re going to create a secure and sustainable food system. I want it with all my heart. It’s what I get up for in the morning, why my calloused hands far exceed my age, why I continue to dig up new gardens, add manure, make compost, without a contract or health insurance or a living wage. Believe me, I have a lot invested in seeing us get there, too.

Conversations of this sort usually come to the question, what can I do? What can we do? From my particular vantage point on this spring day, the direction my compass points is toward land ownership. Less than 1% of arable farmland is owned by campesinos (the people who actually work the land). I think it’s correct to offer the perspective that the people who steward land would make the most fitting owners of it, or at least the most responsible ones.

Not that individual land ownership offers the best or only option, especially for an urban farm such as the one I run. What excites me more than owning a piece of my own farmland is leveraging the growing interest in creating local food systems to use a collective ownership model that values farmers with security and land with sustainable long-term care. As I leave this garden plot, my sights are set squarely on a secure place to concoct the lengthy love potion of building good soil, planting perennials, creating a legacy that can be passed down through generations of careful stewards to feed generations of grateful, healthy souls.

The union of money and farming has been swirling at the center of my storm for years now, and after countless books, conferences, research, dreaming, and scheming, I think I can offer a healthy, hopeful solution that has been done in other locales and can be replicated as we’re able.

1. Find a piece of land worthy of becoming or continuing to be a farm, with good water and decent soil. I’m looking for something in the city, because that’s been my business model, and because our city needs farms, just like every place needs farms. Don’t overlook city-owned land, abandoned schools, parks and rec land, etc, as these are generally the largest tracts of undeveloped land we have. I particularly like the idea of using city land, because it’s already collectively owned by all of us.

2. If the plot isn’t city-owned already, use the Slow Money principles and models to pool investors’ money to purchase the land. This can be done through the CSA model (investors are members who get paid back with food), the Soil Trust model (investors pool money philanthropically), the crowdfunding model (ala kickstarter), community investment mutual funds, grants, loans, or any combination of those.  With city land, this step becomes unnecessary, because we already own the land. These models could still be employed to purchase infrastructure.

3. Work with the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, or the city, to get the land put into a trust with the stipulation that it will always be farmland. This alleviates the conundrum virtually every farm owner across the country has of whether to sell the land to developers at artificially high prices. Once the land is protected in a trust, it remains valuable as ag land, not the possibility of ticky tacky strip malls and subdivisions, and we are collectively the better for it. Rooted in the soil-based economics of what can be sustainably produced on it year after year, with the revenue from that production being able to comfortably cover the mortgage on the land, we elegantly link land and economy, thus bringing money down to earth, in Slow Money’s words. This holds potential for all sorts of exciting economic reform!

4. Show the farmer or farmers they are valued by granting them a lengthening lease on the land, starting at 1 or 2 years, then renewing for 5 years, then 20, so the farmers can have the security to build something that will sustain them into retirement and that can continue after they’re gone, in turn sustaining the community for the long haul.

This is a model I would be honored to participate in, and I’m certain other farmers would feel the same. It serves the deepest aspirations of my soul—a collective bettering of our beloved city by including more fresh, local food in it for the long term, creating an economy centered around sustainable food production, and truly valuing the farmers who devote their lives and livelihoods to doing this work. This model allows us to leverage the modest resources of a large crop of people, which in turn gives a large crop of people a genuine stake in the farm’s success, and therefore, in their own health and the health of their community.

Kinda breaks your heart, doesn't it?

Kinda breaks your heart, doesn’t it?

 

April

April is an Impossible Remembering.
Winter left us with only imagination, photos of gardens long gone,
 We can’t believe it was so green, so lush, so tall,
where a mat of dried brown now lies dead…
Yet here it is,
Life again, defying our imaginations in displays so incredible we almost can’t believe them either…
Brave stems of bulbs sliding surely upward, blooming bright wax freckles on a deceased landscape, wafting hyacinth perfume, luscious—we instinctively change course
like dogs on a scent to stalk the source,
Squawking packs of squabbling birds wake, and the trees!
Oh, the trees…
Wide roots with modest trunks who’ll bear the weight of summer’s sweet bounty…
April comes and the Miracle Earth summons forth impossibly delicate flower petals from rough, bare branches slept the winter through,
A raw, erotic vulnerability,
feminine, garish, tearing, fragile on harsh wood not yet softened by leaves,
fingers of sex organs popping,
splayed out for the bees’ taking,
Pure, fragile sex scraping hard twigs,
fleeting, turned to mush by frost.

THE ONLINE STORE IS UP!

jackson and swag 187 editYippee!! After years of dreaming and scheming and “meaning to” get to it, we’ve finally created an online store for folks near and far to purchase, seeds, CSA shares, and several of the other wacky novelties you’ve come to expect from Earthly Delights…Magic Garlic coloring books, Old Horny Toad’s Miracle Goathead Tincture, and more, all available in a nifty and convenient locale right here on our own scrap of the world wide interweb…I’m sure you’ve got somebody special you could think of slipping a lil goathead tincture to…hubba hubba…lots more coming soon, so jackson and swag 193 editcheck back often, and get your seeds just in the nick of time to plant your spring gardens!!!seed-packets-2013

Common Wealth Seed Library is open!

CaseyThe Common Wealth Seed Library is up and running at last!!! This project, a joint effort by Casey at Earthly Delights Farm and Carrie Jones of Draggin’ Wing Farm here in Boise, helps to grow our common wealth–locally-adapted seeds!!!!–for our members. Members check out seeds through the library, grow the crops in their gardens, and return seed at the end of the year. For more information about this exciting project, check out www.commonwealthseedlibrary.com.

Seeds and 2013 Calendars are Done!

calendars-2013seed-packets-2013We’re thrilled to announce that we saved over 80 varieties of seeds this year, and are offering 65 of them for sale! Seeds are available at the North End Organic Nursery, Edwards Greenhouse, and a limited selection at the Boise Co-op. You will also be able to purchase seeds directly through our website by the end of the winter! Yippee!!!

The 2013 Calendar gives tips on seed saving this year, along with all the other great gardening how-to info! They’re available at Edwards Greenhouse, the North End Nursery, and Bricolage.

Thanks for supporting the farm this year!

Kristy Kuecken RETURNS!

03 - kristy kueckenThe internship has been a life-changing event for me, especially being lucky enough to do it twice! It has changed the way I think about and see the world. The skills I have gained, the knowledge of how to grow food and the friends I have made all have made me a different person. Thanks Casey!!!!!!!!!!!

Anton Filicetti

02 - anton filicettiAs with anything in life, it’s the journey that matters. The farm is a beautiful place because it is a canvas where you get to play with and learn from the most real teachers in the universe.. time, weather, and good company. The experiences are multifaceted. There are times where you feel on top of the world covered in horse crap, or with your fingers so cold you can’t feel them anymore. You get to experience the loss in death, and appreciate the aesthetics in color and flavor, smell and texture, the allbeit “taboo” subject of sex, which drives the creative engines of this living planet. My advice would be to eat a good breakfast, bring layers, good shoes, and don’t be afraid of the future, because as farmers, or earth lovers or whatever, your ride is about hope… you trust that the seeds you plant, physically and symbolically, have this crazy infinite potential in them.

Adriana White

01 - Adriana WhiteFor my funny, more detailed personal review visit : Internship Review

You are making a big commitment to yourself, the farm, the CSA members, the future of our local seed + food movement. In order to get the best results, know that your attendance + dedication is very important to this internship. It is a lot of fun but it is a lot of hard work + provokes many o’ thoughts + ideas. This internship was one of the most influential, life-changing, positive experience I’ve ever taken part in. Stick with it, put your work in + you will get a lot out of this amazing internship.