Farmer John Writes: My Inner World
Harvest Week 2, July 5th – 10th, 2021
Please read Week 1 Farm News, More Than Before, for an introduction to the 2021 season.
In Farm News, I often report my outer life to you—the weather, the equipment, the soil, the workers, the crops, the work. Today I’m going to relate to you my inner life in relation to farming, because farming for me is also an inner experience.
Farming is part of me. I intimately identify with the farm and the process of farming. I inwardly experience the farm through a mood of devotion, of reverence. This mood enlivens and informs my experiences. What I am experiencing speaks to me, informs me, guides me.
From Farm News, Week 6, 1996:
“Since childhood…I loved looking at the farms: how the fields were laid out; how the buildings were situated, their color, sizes, forms and states of repair; the landscaping of the farmsteads; the livestock and the pens and corrals; the condition of the crops. Each farm was a fascinating story–these physical outgrowths were where the farmer interfaced with the land. The barn is that big, I would think. It is not bigger. It could have been bigger. It could have been smaller. It is that big. The farmer made it like that. He put it there, right there. He could have put it a little to the left, or to the right, but he put it there.”
end of 1996 Farm News excerpt
The following are some of the ways that I inwardly experience the farm.
A broken machine is broken inside of me.
A weedy field grows weeds inside of me, makes me feel unkempt.
Leaves pockmarked with insect bites create inner pockmarks, dark speckles in my inner world.
High temperatures burn fiercely inside of me.
Frosts nip at my insides. Rain hydrates me.
Winds swirl in me.
My barns invoke an exalted feeling of space and form.
The red, yellow, and orange Spanish colonial colors of the farm buildings make me inwardly festive.
A leaky roof drips into my inner being, makes it soggy.
A rusting machine withers me.
A new machine shines gloriously inside of me.
A flat wagon tire torques my spine, makes me tilt.
A bumper crop engulfs me.
A mis-firing tractor unsettles me.
A worker’s absence incompletes me.
Dust coats and dries my insides.
Overall, I make little distinction between what happens on the farm and my inner life. If not for devotion, for love of the farm, these experiences would be whipsawing, fragmenting. In a mood of devotion, though, they bless me with murmurs of revelation and guidance.
From How to Know Higher Worlds, by Rudolf Steiner: “Our civilization tends more toward critical judgment and condemnation than toward devotion and selfless veneration. The student must…endeavor straightaway to cultivate thoughts of devotion.”
I suspect that, if I identified less with the workings of the farm, I may not be as diligent a farmer; I would not be able to endure the strife and hardship that accompanies running a farm; I would not so devotedly impart my love onto the farmstead and the fields. Throughout my life, I am the farm. The farm is me. Taking care of the farm is like taking care of myself, often more paramount than taking care of myself. (I’m not complaining, not lamenting, just noticing and sharing, so that you have a better sense of who is at the helm of this farm that feeds you.)
Of course, this way of experiencing the farm, through a prism of love and deep interest, is far from Newton’s mechanistic, impartial method of observing phenomena. It is more like Goethe’s method, which encourages a living interaction with the process of experiencing phenomena, an active participation in the process. Goethe felt that Newton’s method could not be properly applied to life processes, to the unfolding of nature.
(Rudolf Steiner built on Goethe’s method to create a body of work known as spiritual science. Steiner also incorporated Goethe’s work into the foundation for Biodynamic farming, which we practice at Angelic Organics.)
Science Says What?
Farm chemicals, by ensuring a death process (i.e. death of weeds, death of insects) are really part of a life process, as death and life are inseparable. Newtonian science (or at least how Newtonian science is typically applied) has paved the way to widespread industrialized, chemicalized agriculture by leading to certain findings about farm chemicals such as Roundup (glyphosate) and organophosphates, which has led to the consequent blessings and widespread use of these chemicals.
So-called authorities claim Roundup is safe, ecological, and a moral addition to today’s arsenal of crop protection products. “Science says…” is a ubiquitous claim to authority and truth, a credential held in high esteem (even more so than as seen on television.) Yet, today, humanity throughout the world breathes in Roundup with every breath, and perhaps imbibes it with every sip of water, as revealed in U.S. Researchers Find Roundup Chemical in Water, Air.
Read Vital Soil Organisms Being Harmed by Pesticides.
Read The Department of Yes: How Pesticide Companies Corrupted the EPA and Poisoned America.
How is it possible that we got to this point? Is science so cold and impersonal (objective) that it overrides love? Intuition? Common sense?
Taking Care of a Farm
(Not a Newtonian process below; it is an experience I had before Roundup was sprayed on nearby land.)
From Farm News, Week 6, 1999:
“As I walked back from his sprayer to my pickup, I looked down at the ground. In some other world, some other dimension, I “saw” a stalk of yellow sweet clover. It stood by itself, about three and a half feet tall. It was in bloom. Its small yellow blossoms gleamed in the sunlight. I admired its lush green foliage, then followed it down to its base, to where it soared from the earth.
I was surprised that the earth did not stop my observation; somehow, I followed the imaginary sweet clover down into the ground. “Imaginary” is not quite the right term, since this sweet clover seemed more real than the Roundup on the ground, more real than the pickup truck at my side. I cascaded down the root structure of this sweet clover plant, into the ground below. I sort of tumbled down it, nuzzling its rootlets (a bit like snorkeling, I guess). I ricocheted down this web of life that the sweet clover had spun into the soil—deeper and deeper. It is hard to clearly remember the subterranean experience. It was outside of my normal frame of reference, a bit like a dream that is so palpable while it is being dreamed, but then it quickly vaporizes from memory.
I experienced a structure as I descended into the earth. It was geometric, a crystalline structure. Where the lines of this structure intersected, something like a light was shimmering. The soil under the sweet clover twinkled. The soil was pulsing with light—rejoicing in a sort of operatic celebration of life. I have no memory of hearing, or touching, or smelling. I only remember the visual part. And joy, I remember something like joy. Whether it was my joy, or the soil’s joy, or a shared joy, I really don’t know. But there was a great joy down there.
And then…I don’t remember. I don’t remember how I ascended from this journey, how I came back into my normal consciousness. I suspect that in those moments of which I have no memory, something occurred that was too fantastic or too horrifying for cognition—those moments are a blank. I am sure I had a much richer experience of this journey than I am sharing here, but most of it is lost to my normal process of thinking and remembering.”
end of 1999 Farm News excerpt
What is the inner training, or at least the inner mood, needed to enter into a right relationship with farming practices?
Love and devotion are part of the answer.
Wow, what a beautiful read! Thank you, Farmer John, for sharing your inner world and for feeding us and countless others for so many years. We have been enjoying being nourished by our first box of the season, so green and vibrant (with red and while highlights)!
Thank you for reading Farm News. It’s so nice you take such an interest in the farm and the food.
Farmer John, how have you and the farm been affected by the chemical fire in Rockton?
We are 7 or 8 miles east of Rockton. The smoke went pretty much straight south from the fire.
Thanks for sharing! I don’t think that “science” is claiming that glyphosate is safe after the lawsuits in California. My husband and I had been living in Europe for the past several years where it is (slowly) being phased out. I believe the European Union has issued a ban by 2022 or 2023. I do hope the US follows suit.
Seems there is all sorts of “science” these days, depending on the agenda. (Of course, true science is not supposed to have an agenda.) Monsanto’s version of science says Roundup is safe; the court’s version says Roundup is not safe.
I am deeply moved by your telling of your connection to the earth and your life’s work of farming. Rudolf Steiner would be proud of you. May you and the farm and folks all be blessed.
“Rudolf Steiner would be proud of you.” This is one of the best compliments ever. I can usually graciously receive a compliment, even if I think it is not fully deserved, but your compliment makes me want to shuffle my feet and say “oh, shucks.”