This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville, and a long time advocate for the cannabis community in Mendocino Co; more of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
BELL SPRINGS, 3/28/21 — Spring arrives, though winter has not given up as evidenced by the hard freezes of the past couple mornings. This is the time of year when we love the warmth of the afternoon sun, but struggle with the cold dawn. Breath is as smoke in the morning, and I break the ice on the water dishes as I feed the animals.
We may soon see baby rabbits. One of the does that we bred last month has begun pulling out hair to make a nest for her kits. The cycles continue — new beings are born and others exit this life. This week we’ll slaughter one of the three pigs we’ve kept over the winter, bringing nourishment and sustenance into our households for the season to come.
As the days tick off the calendar we move through the motions that bring the farm to life, prepping, sowing and transplanting crops into the space in which they will live their lives. Beginning, growth, harvest and consumption is the cycle of the farm and of the community that supports it. We are glad to exist in a shared journey of mutual support, anchored in the land that offers so much unto us.
I had the opportunity to vend at the spring market that was put on by the Mendocino Herb Guild to mark the equinox. It was a deep joy to see so many faces and to exchange love and energy in the sharing of interaction. We are community, drawing back together after long absence caused by pandemic.
Throughout history humans have survived plagues and diseases, and though caution is still appropriate and masks are still needed, it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel. Seeing everyone made me reflect on how important interaction is for our health and well-being as humans, a fundamental cornerstone of life.
We are social creatures, defined as much by the relationships we form in life, as we are by genetic makeup. When we gather as community, the sum is greater than the parts, an expression of human solidarity and togetherness. We form groups based in shared interest, holding space for mutual learning and connection.
I appreciate the Herb Guild for fostering a sense of connectedness around land, plants and community. We humans have always been sustained and succored by plants, yet the industrial paradigm strips us of knowledge and gratitude by severing this connection. We learn in sharing, from elder to youth as the teachings are passed on, and this is the joy of responsibility.
Humans have always gathered in celebration and counsel, working together in shared effort to survive and thrive. The past year of distancing and fear have been so difficult, yet reflection on this has often been elusive as we’ve placed one foot in front of the other. We’ve known we were missing parts of life that matter to us, but the feeling is brought into sharp relief by the contrast of gathering again.
Perhaps more than any point during the pandemic, I feel the importance of seeing people and participating in shared activities. I value the opportunity to market our goods and connect with people, more so now because it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other.
I value the structure that markets offer, a baseline for conversation and connection that fosters a rotational set of interactions. I get to see and interact with so many people, anchored in my identity as a farmer. I think about how my sense of self as a farmer is fundamental to my reality and the way I relate to others.
To farm is to serve as a conduit between land and community, fostering life that transitions into sustenance to foster life for others. This deep responsibility is a calling, a ministry that guides the actions we take. Like breathing, this relationship is often in the background, taken for granted in the routine of life. I try to focus on my breath and hold space for reflection, bringing into gratitude that which I might take for granted.
I look forward to the season to come, to the warmth that will grow as the days lengthen, and to the cool breezes that caress the skin on hot afternoons. I look to the cycles of birth and growth, to death and decay. The sharing and exchange of nourishment and energy moves me through the journey and I try to be conscious of that which I bring to interaction. I give love and am loved in return, sharing joy and difficulty alike on the path of life.
As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!