Open Source Farming

Open Source Farming

A friend of mine said this to me the other day and I had to giggle. You see, that friend at one time had worked in the IT business and open source programming is a “movement,” if you will, of programmers. People who think that programs should be free to everyone and not something that is owned and marketed by just one person. Not corporate companies of course, that would not be financially savvy. Still, the idea of open source has an appealing note to it, don’t your think?

So how does open source work in the farming world? To be honest, I don’t think anyone has actually thought a good deal about this. Here is my take on open source farming and how it should work in communities.

Let’s face it, no matter how much we want to believe we are great farmers, no one farm can supply enough food to feed the masses. As long as there are people on this earth, there will be a need for food. There is a movement through out the country and especially here in New Hampshire for more “homegrown” foods, organics, real grass fed beef, free range chickens…well you get the idea.

Now I have had conversations with people on both sides of the spectrum. You can preach to the choir, but they are already on your side. The people you need to convince are those who don’t really want to know. Oh, they are quite aware of how bad the food is that they are eating, but they don’t really want to think about it, because, if they did, they would be forced to admit they are eating products that should never be eaten by any living being and join our movement. Admitting that you’ve been wrong about what you are putting into your body is hard, especially when that food tastes so good.

It’s okay. I’m not going to tell you to change your eating habits. When you are sick of feeling like crap, tired of putting harmful chemicals in your body and your blood pressure, sugar levels and cholesterol are through the roof, come see me. I’ve been there. Well, my health is actually very good, but that didn’t stop me from looking at ways to try to make it even better.

Maybe it was the fact that I am quickly reaching that mid-century mark, but I have been quite aware that time is passing quickly and you only get one go around on this ride called life.

In my last blog I mentioned Stamatis Moraitis, the man who was told he had just nine months to live and went on to live to almost a hundred. (To my knowledge he is still alive and would have turn 100 this month.) Whether you believe his story or not, science has proven that people on his little island of Ikaria in Greece live longer and healthier lives than the average person… significantly. They don’t eat processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, fillers or other “unnatural” foods. For the most part they eat what they raise, take naps, stay up late and drink wine.

So what does this have to do with Open Source Farming? In the Longevity project, the one big connection between all the little pockets of places where people live longer, healthier lives was community. These people rely on the community for food, companionship and help.

I stepped down this path of farming knowing very little. I’ve raised chickens and horses and I would still consider myself a novice at both. I have since dived in with both feet expecting this rush of opens arms, people in the farming community willing to give me advice, lend me a hand and offer moral support.

And I have found it in places. In other places, what I have found are those who feel they are better than you because they’ve been doing it longer. No matter how hard I try to crack the shell of these people, to bring them in to the “bigger picture” I fail.

That’s exactly what big corporate American likes. As long as small farmers stay divided and refuse to join together, we will never make a difference in our own lives and people will continue to get sick and die much earlier than necessary.

I think of these small communities such as Ikaria, Greece and long for the friendship and camaraderie I believe they have. These people have an “open door” policy. Neighbors stop by unannounced with a bottle of wine and everyone visits, they discuss their individual farms and what is happening in the community. I picture people sharing stories, playing checkers or chess, the young listening to stories told by the older folks, homemade snacks being passed around.

Sounds good, doesn’t?

Here in the North East, we are a very high-strung people. We are always on the go, feeling almost guilty if we just sit for a moment and do absolutely nothing. That is the Yankee ingenuity in us. Keep going, keep moving or you die.

Even here in New England, I believe that farmers can have that same sense of community. As with any movement, it starts small, but I can already see it. I have met so many wonderful people in just a short time that I have been on this journey to sustainability. I can almost pick out in a crowd now those who want to be taught, but who hold on to their knowledge like it will somehow get them through the pearly gates ahead of all the others.

Then there are those who can pick a newbie from across the room. The smiles brighten; they walk up to you, introduce themselves and say, “how can I help you.”

It is those people, those who believe in open source farming, sharing knowledge, lending a hand and building community, who will live the longest happiest lives. We are not that much in a hurry to get to those pearly gates.

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4 thoughts on “Open Source Farming

  1. Not sure exactly what defines “open source farming” but one movement that has caught hold here is the return to the CSA – Community Sustained Agriculture. At it’s worst, you sign up with a farm and for a set amount of $$ you get a box of what is fresh every week. No choices and very little variety. They may offer other items “outside” of the membership fee for reduced prices but for the most part, you must plan your menu around what they give you.
    In its purest form, CSA (which was brought to this country from Germany, and got its start near my home in the town of Wilton, NH) involves the farmer setting a budget for the year and the community buying “shares” according to what they can pay to cover the budget. You take what you need, not just what your $$ would buy. In this way, large families can pay what they can afford and take as much as they need. Smaller “shareholders” such as a retired couple, contribute what they can afford, sometimes more than they will actually take in food. The farm is sustained and the community is provided for…an interesting concept that requires some degree of cooperation and administration.

    • We have a CSA here in town, too and I agree. I know many people who join and love it. I wouldn’t necessarily eat all the food they provide so I take my money to the farmer’s market and buy just the items I want.
      Here is an example of what I mean by Open Source. I wrote an article on this blog a while back about a farm that raises meat rabbits. The owners were very happy with the article and have offered my boyfriend and I to come their house this summer to learn how to process meat chickens. I would like to raise meat chickens but there just isn’t a convenient place to get them processed. These people are willing to share their knowledge and teach us how to do this so we can do it ourselves. Down the road, my boyfriend and I can do this with other new farmers just starting out.

  2. Sharing knowledge of any kind is what took us from the caves to the cities. It seems a terrible shame when people hold their secrets close. They may have something to learn from the newcomers too because it works both ways.

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