Our Farmers

Austin Mandryk - Your Farmer

I kind of have a no-camera rule, but sisters win out.

I kind of have a no-camera rule, but sisters win out.

Everything that can be said about a farmer, a farm says for him already. But for those who have not yet met the farm, or the farmer, permit a few words.

A word about why ...

I am a very slow reader of French. It was so long ago that they tried to teach us. But there, on the first page of Terre des hommes, Saint-Exupéry writes, "Le paysan, dans son labour ..." The peasant, in his, not labor, but ploughing. And so I learned, to labour is to plough. The word is too old to be sure of its provenance, but probably, labere, to slip, to totter, to stumble under a burden. And this is what we choose for ourselves? The heavy weight we slip beneath? The labour? The plough?

On questions. What is the thing you do with your body? What are the colors of your life? What is the big thing all your days are moving around? Where is your water? And, as a question itself, what are the questions you live your life by? Sometimes it takes a question to know we have an answer inside us. And so this one: Just what is it that you are bringing into the world?

I have thought for a long time about our creative power, about what we as humans have: an existence that our very touching changes--for better, for worse, the world and the hearts of others. We cannot know what we do does, but maybe it is in tenderness that we can move, and with a kind of faith. And so this labour, this plough, this answered question. This farming.

When I lived in the Catskills, every night I walked a mile home along a dark road that was in memory unpaved. I walked the same way John Burroughs did, that once famous author who went fishing for trout on Biscuit, Highfalls, the Neversink, the very streams and holes I swam in after runs, or in the middle of them. He died long ago, but the miracle of words is not to still hear, but to still feel: "[H]e who goes in a right spirit will not be disappointed, and will find the taste of this kind of life better, though bitterer, than the writers have described."

Better, though bitterer. For some it was not lost, but there is happening now the reclamation of an old feeling. I mean, work and rest, and where it happens; how the earth is woven all through it. It may be more bitter, this weighted slip that made us first call out, "laber." But for some of us, aren't we born for what is hard? And the way rest feels when the body needs it? Isn't this spot the confluence of so many rivers we had been following? I love growing your vegetables. It is good for my heart; and, in the end, I hope, for yours. There is much said of "Good to Great," but, look, on the other side of greatness is goodness, and that is something else altogether.

Though as for me and all this talk of work, I'm with Abraham Joshua Heschel: "I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder.” But I have had my fortune, and it has been the good kind, the good kind.

For the health of all of you and all of your parts,
See you at the farm,