A dear friend sent me a story the other day. Here is how it went:
There was a farmer who grew excellent, quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.
“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.
“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”
So, it is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…
(Excerpted from There Was Once a Farmer… Oregon State University Extension Website)
Isn’t this the truth? The idea of being a good neighbor, thinking outside of ourselves and the interdependence of growing food.
Farmers know quite well that they can’t do their work alone. They rely on their community. Years ago, when the hay was dry farmers put calls out to the community to help bring the hay into the barn before the rains came. When the potatoes were ready for harvest, children were let out of school so they could help their parents and neighbors with the harvest.
In recent years, the advent of increased mechanization and technology has led to larger farms, more consolidation of farms, and isolation of our rural communities. That isolation has an impact on our health and quality of life. The physical distance of our rural and urban communities creates hardships for both farmers and non-farmers. Farmers can’t do it on their own, but it can be hard to ask for help when they feel isolated from their community and those that purchase their food.
Healthy communities have a social foundation. In these communities’ neighbors meet to talk, share food, tools, or advice and help each other. This is how people build mutual trust. Healthy food systems mean something similar. It means we support farmers and food producers who in turn sustain us, the land, and the environment. It isn’t about “can I do it alone?” or “can I find this cheaper?” It is about a trusting, interdependent relationship.
Ten years ago, I started Farmers To You to assure the health of the smaller sustainable farmers in my community. I was not your typical entrepreneur, creating a venture to make money. For me, it was about finding a way to work with others to change a system so we can ALL thrive.
The farmer in the story above seeded his community with “good corn” so that all the corn was better. I hope that Farmers To You is seeding vitality in our region by bringing rural farmers and urban or suburban families together in a supportive partnership.
I know many of you are thinking about how you can remove walls, open your hearts, and make your community stronger and healthier. As you do this, you are seeding trusting relationships, being a good neighbor and can’t help but feel happier and more at peace.
With appreciation from Vermont,