Those of us who are bathed in technology much of our lives, that is to say most of the Western world by now, have grown accustomed to having everything happen in a hurry. Speed is the ultimate. Efficiency is king.
I am prone to this, feeling impatient with the rate of change.
Even in gardening, I value a relatively quick turnaround: Plant a bunch of lettuce seedlings, and a month later I can be snipping salad from my own raised bed.
But some things take time, and move in a crooked line, and require great patience to see results.
I’m reminded of this when I visit a farmer friend who lives in my neighborhood. Her family farm is called Artesian Farm. It’s in the next county over, where Anna and her farm partners raise grassfed beef.
When she talks about farming, she thinks in terms of decades. For example, the process of transitioning the farm to organic—which her parents wanted to do long before there was any infrastructure of support—has barely begun, and the beginning itself is taking years.
It’s been nearly 10 years of preparation, and a very small portion of the crop acreage is just beginning the transition to organic.
To grow corn and beans organically, and to be certified as such, farmers undergo an elaborate process. One of Artesian Farm’s first steps was adding more cattle. It seems an odd thing: what do corn and beans have to do with the beef side of the business?
But Anna explains that crop rotation is key in organic farming. Hay is their chosen rotation crop. “It’s common wisdom that if you grow hay and sell it off your farm, you’re taking all the nutrition off your farm.” So more cattle were needed to make use of the hay.
A 200-page plan has taken about six years to complete. It would cost $2500 to have an outside agency prepare this plan, on top of the $1000 for certifying. Anna opted for the DIY approach.
During my visit Anna cuts me some lemon balm, which is near an imposing compost heap about the size of a mobile home. It looks like a small sod house was plunked down in the middle of her modest “back 40.” “How do you turn it?” I ask, thinking of our own compost pile—a midget compared to this—and how it never gets hot enough to kill weed seeds, because we don’t turn it, though we always say we will.
“Oh, I don’t bother turning it. Nature doesn’t turn it, in the woods.”
Walking me back to my car, Anna reflects on the passage of time, how long it takes to make a change, to heal the land, to see results. Those of us who don’t spend as much time with our feet on the soil and hands in the dirt might expect results in a much shorter time frame than the decades that are really required.
Like the compost, like building the humus of the forest floor, there are things that can’t be rushed.