The farm is a different place in 2014. We can feel time working. While it is far from an established garden, it doesn’t look so new anymore. The perennials have had time to take root. The pig face is taking over the centre of the front yard. The lilipilli recovered well from the heatwave of early 2013 and grew some in the warmth of this more forgiving summer. The passionfruit vine is taking over the front fence and the new peach tree is taking root out back. The soil is slowly becoming healthier with the variety of plants, a lack of pesticides, mulching, and the frequent applications of worm wee, seasol, compost and rock dust. We are starting to understand the patterns of light, and how to respond to the less predictable periods of heat, cold and rain. We have dug out new garden beds, harvested the old and planted the late summer crops, and, with all that said, its hard to believe that summer has passed without a report on all of the happenings in this little house on the hill. There has been no time for reflection!
Time is something of critical importance to me as an aspirational farmer and/or gardener. When we were in Atlanta in January we went to a fundraiser event held by the amazing Joe and Judith of Love is Love Farm. I can’t now remember what they were fundraising for, but we were meeting a lot of people from ATL involved in the new farming movement in the US. We dosed up on exciting conversations about all kinds of community projects and ate lots of delicious food. One conversation I remember in particular was about the difference between gardening and farming. This conversation for me is ultimately about labour, time and temporality but I will have to digress for a moment before coming back to it.
The question of a distinction between a garden and a farm is something I am constantly wrangling with here at the farm. I know that when we say “we have a farm in Earlwood”, and surprised people respond with the question “you have a farm in Earlwood?”, the image that the word “farm” conjures in the minds of others is very different to what we actually do. If they went to Love is Love Farm, they would say “yeah, you guys have a farm!” But we have what most people would recognise as a garden. We say farm because it is a stated intention to work towards something bigger.
At the dinner in Atlanta, a girl I was speaking to had a very specific definition of the distinction between gardening and farming, in fact she teaches a community workshop on this very question. A garden, on the one hand, is something someone does as a hobby, on the side of other primary work. The garden can possibly be growing edible food, often it is ultimately an aesthetic project or exercise in wellbeing. A farm, on the other hand, is where every cabbage is an individual unit of economic value carefully calculated to correspond with the farmer’s required sales in order to cover costs. A farm is where a lettuce is part of a livelihood, not where a tomato is nice by-product of a risk-free pastime. It’s a good distinction. It’s the same distinction that exists across the board between, say, writers and bloggers, indeed, it is just the old distinction between the professional and the amateur. And, upon hearing it, it made me feel like less of a farmer, more like a gardener with delusions of grandeur (We have a website, for God’s sake! How embarrassing!). I talked to Joe about it afterwards. Joe, who hasn’t seen the farm and whose livelihood (and that of his few employees) depends on his careful plantings of lettuce and mushrooms and everything in between at Love is Love endorses our use of the word “farm” in spite of this distinction. He’s very nice.
While I do believe that it also shouldn’t just be reserved for the business of selling food and I do think that what Joe and Judith do is more Farm than Earlwood Farm, I’m not going to change the name of the farm. For me, as someone who is risk averse and thoroughly institutionalised, the idea of dropping everything to start an independent small farming business simply does not compute. I want to know how t0 take such risks, but I am slow in the uptake of information, slow in deciding how to go about decisions and even slower to act upon the decision made. This farm is a personal transition town. The economy is not one of lettuce for money, a direct exchange. The economy is of time, labour time and in an attempt to making time for the labour outside a professionalised market of direct exchange. This is a durational kind of exchange between us and the soil, between us and the chickens. It is an exchange between worms and our scraps, between us and our scraps, between us and the worms, and the worms and the chickens. It’s a farm of a different order; it is of a different temporality and operating on a different time scale to the one that governs the rules of small business.
Anyway. That’s enough on that for now.
It is 2014. We currently have in the ground rock and watermelons, corn, basil, tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, chilli, cucumber, sage, parsley, rosemary, thyme, okra, rhubarb and we’ve even started growing our own “clucker tucker” so the chickens will get their own home grown food. We’ve built up the beds, built new beds and things keep on growing. I’ll spend more time farming and thinking about time in the days, weeks, months and years to come.