CCF getting dirty at YES, May 25

The Youth Environmental Summit (YES) is an event organized by the Berkshire Environmental Educators Network (BEEN), which includes Center for Ecological Technology (CET), Flying Cloud Institute, Housatonic Valley Association (HVA), Massachusetts Audubon Society and Berkshire STEM Pipeline Network. At the Summit, students from grades 3 through high school have the opportunity to present the findings of their environmental projects to their peers.

CCF participated by running an informative soil workshop led by Mael, Justin and Tashiana:


CCF is meeting “on the commons” in Minneapolis with social investors , folks creating land trusts, cooperatives and other social finance tools to help preserve and expand farmland for food, individuals who are farming, especially folks testing ways of borrowing and using land that isn’t owned personally as well as dealing with questions of succession and community-based revenue.

Since 2001, On the Commons has sparked collaborations, showcased commons-based solutions at the community and national level, developed approaches of how to share our commons equitably and given inspiration to commons activists to make a difference in their communities— and the world. As a commons movement strategy center, we connect organizations, community leaders and individuals with new ideas, practical solutions and one another to create significant change.

2011 marks our 10th anniversary and a big year for the commons. On the Commons is involved in a remarkable and ever-expanding circle of efforts to reconstitute community, re-localize food, preserve water as a commons, move towards cooperative economics and better harmonize our lives with the health of our planet.

June 4, 2011

We’re all living in different worlds.  Your world is made up of the things you see and hear, the things you’ve experienced and are experiencing now, the things you feel, the things you know, the things you believe.  And that world becomes very familiar over time.  The faces, the words, the objects and shapes, the pathways and currents of movement, all become comfortable, recognizable, safe.   Acceptable ideas, ways of doing, things to do, become so engrained as to be unconscious, and soon sink into the still reflective surface of truth.  It’s hard to think about things so far away from here, on the other side of that surface… sometimes, you forget that there’s anything else out there at all.

But there comes a time to leave that world behind.

In fact, whenever you want to learn something new, and I mean really learn it, to internalize it, to know it, you have to enter that new world – not just peek out the window, or open the door and look out, but walk through that open door – and that means leaving the old world behind.  It’s not that you can’t walk those old paths and hallways any longer, but you have to leave behind the old world’s comfort, it’s security – the idea that your world is the only world; that your truth is the Truth.  Because it’s not.  And to enter into a new part of the universe of life is to realize how incredibly vast and infinitely varied the whole world is; and before long, you begin to see that your world is only one part of that whole world, made up of infinite, harmonious, inseparable parts…

The world of farming with Community Cooperative Farm is a completely different world.

There are different rhythms of life: rise at 5:30, a quick breakfast of eggs from our hens and/or bacon from our pigs, then a sunny, serene, backroad bikeride over the Green River and you’re in the field by 6:30.  Whatever the work is: hands deep in the dirt or clinging to the shovel, squeezing clumps of compost or busting sod, harvesting leaves of kale or  tenderly tucking in transplants, clipping favorite vines for the goats to keep her occupied while your buddy milks her gently and tries to fend off her immaculately accurate kicks; it’s always work that you feel with your whole body, its work that you do.  Then before you know it its 10:30 and the Sun is looking right down over your shoulder, too Hot and High for you to be productive, even the plants are drooping exhuasted; it’s not worth the scorched skin.  So a long lunch and siesta, and then back out for a few more hours, in the late (late) summer afternoon shade.  After a heart-y dinner cooked with so much love that its not even a secret ingredient anymore, it’s hard to stay awake past 10:30.  But sometimes, we do.  Every activity, every action, every movement is a dance, which the Earth and the Sun and Moon and Stars and all Beings are equally a part of.
Different conceptions of work, accomplishment, and success.  It’s nice to be in a place where the I is important and valued, but not as important or valued as the group, and the mission/ideal that the group stands for – then your work becomes a part of the realization of that goal.  A beautiful, touching feeling, a sense of real progress, in the inch-by-inch, leaf-by-leaf developments of the field.  In dark brown of the Earth, nothing is planted for today’s harvest, but today is the only time you have.  It’s a strange and apparently contradictory feeling of accomplishment when you wipe the sweat from your brow (and the dirt from your hands onto your forehead [luckily nobody cares]) and look out over a planted row, bare and flat as (or barer and flatter than) when you started, but you feel the dreams and hopes churning, beating like your own heart underneath that raw Earth, and it seems that anything at all can happen.
Different ideas about fulfillment.  When more is more there’s no end to the cycle of need; but when less is more, and you admire someone for minimizing their waste and consumption, an then begin to admire that quality in yourself, suddenly you find your habits start to change, and you see that maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to make this whole crazy society thing work…
Different definitions of Right and Wrong, of Truth, of Justice – not just one different definiton, but countless different definitions, seeming to change and grow faster than the plants.  It’s hard to go 5 minutes out in the field planting next to your Brother or Sister before you’re talking about something real and meaningful (probably because you’re doing something real and meaningful).  And what a blessing to be surrounded by reflective, passionate, brilliant, seriously seeking, open-mindeded and open-hearted, people – diverse in interests and subjects of study but united in a sense of purpose, of wanting to do something, to make something happen, to dig and plant in the Earth until maybe one day the Truth springs up out of the ground, fresh and green and alive as an ear of corn, reaching towards the sun.
Different experiences of life and death.  In the field you come face to face with life, actively participating in the birth and growth of beings (because yes, plants are living beings), as the parent to tens of thousands of children (we’re planting 20,000 onions alone).  But universe is not life alone.  Death is closer than ever before, working in the field next to you.  I held a dying turkey chick in my hand, watched it struggle to breathe, its eyes closed.  How can you understand death without being close to death?  But if you immerse yourself in Nature, where everything is constantly being born, dying, and being reborn (only to re-die, of course), you begin to see how life comes out of death; growth comes out of destruction.  The single individual cannot last – but the dynamic life of the group goes beyond the individual.  This is a fundamental law of nature, and our Modern Human Culture’s way of ignoring it, rabidly fearing death, only leaves us blind, and lost.

Yep, it’s a different world, alright.  And it seems far away, foreign, perhaps even frighteningly distant from the place where you begin.  But the beginning doesn’t matter, because there’s no beginning and there’s no end to the journey.  All you have to worry about is walking out the door.  Because by walking out, into that different world, we can finally and ecstatically bask in the sunlight of knowledge and experience; and only by doing can we feed our innate need for newness, and from that nourishment, we begin to grow.

And what is life for, if not to grow?