KENTUCKIANS FOR THE COMMONWEALTH.

imageRecently Hannah and I became members of a progressive (and notably nonpartisan) group called Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. And we’re kind of smitten.

This group started in the 1980s after it was discovered coal companies in rural Appalachia were not paying state taxes, thus not contributing to the communities that enriched them. The KFTC fought these companies and helped pass legislation to force absentee owners to pay much needed property taxes, and protect the mineral rights of local land owners.

Though today the KFTC still works to ensure coal companies respect their employees, communities and laws, the group has also expanded its focus to a few other areas. For instance, in a state where the middle income households pay 74 percent higher taxes than what the wealthy pay, fighting economic injustice is a significant focus. Were the wealthy to pay fair taxes, it would help increase funding for lack of education and infrastructure which are sorely need.

The KFTC is also working to encourage cleaner, more sustainable energies while providing responsible economic transition plans for the already struggling coal communities. Many Kentucky counties have been hit hard by a nation turning increasingly towards natural gas and renewable energies (four KY coal counties are among the top ten poorest counties by median household income in the country). The KFTC wants to make sure the families and miners affected are not forgotten.

Add to all that advocacy for voter rights, renters rights and environmental protection, among many other issues, the KFTC remains a vital part of our state, and we are proud to be members.

So please check out their site and consider becoming a member. There are chapters across the state, but you can also donate to them if you believe in any of the above causes, no matter where you live.

Thanks for reading, guys, now back to farming!

– Jesse

PARTNERS.

Almost five years ago to the week, Hannah and I left Bugtussle for the first time. Our internship was over and we were headed back home to start a farm together.

On our way out, we stopped our cars at the garden to pick some carrots and greens at the behest of our mentors, and I can remember the wind whipping through, trying its best to shoo us out. Winter was pushing her way south and the garden was ready for its break––ready for its farmers to leave it be.

I can still picture our hands, red from the cold, dirty veggies dangling. We were about to pack them into our cars, but cold as we were, before we could leave, I hoped to take one more thing with me. I needed my partner.

So I asked Hannah to marry me right there amongst the veggies, and I remember how slowly the smile cracked across her face, how the joy tears welled, how she laughed as she said yes. And honestly, I don’t remember it being cold after that. It maybe never has been since.

In leaving Bugtussle for the final time this week, it was bittersweet, certainly, and not nearly as joyful. But, heading back to our new farm with our young son, the ride from Bugtussle still had the same warm feeling of possibility that it did five years earlier. That never goes away for me. We’ve survived several new beginnings, several hard times, and I would say we’ve made it through thick and thin, but we really have yet to test thick. Times have been mostly thin for us.

As young farmers, I didn’t know what the years ahead would bring when I asked Hannah to marry me, but I knew she was the only person with whom I wanted to see them. And I feel compelled to say something about how I chose well, but in all reality, it feels a lot more like well chose me.

I’m one lucky farmer, one fortunate father, one happy husband. And I owe it all to my beautiful partner, with whom I always, even in the hardest times, stay warm, hopeful and ready for what’s next.

-Jesse.

hannah.

FARM LIKE YOU’RE MOVING.

My back ached as I threw the last trash bag into the truck to take to the dump. Not the last trash bag of the move, the last bag that could fit the first load.

Hannah was joining me the next day but I was already exhausted, yet nowhere near done.

As I stomped around the property in Bugtussle, doing the last round of cleanup before we officially left this week, I was completely floored by how much junk we owned—how much stuff had just collected, dotting the property like little flags of half-finished projects.

There were endless piles of lumber scraps, broken five gallon buckets to the heavens, glass, plastic, bags, barrels, books. (I don’t know why books, but several soggy books outside). I couldn’t help but wonder, “What would this place have looked like in another four years?”

I vowed (to my aching body, mostly) never to let this happen again. And not because I think we will ever move any time soon, hopefully ever, but because that’s exactly what we said when we returned to Bugtussle. You never know where life is gonna take you, and you should never assume it won’t move you.

Plus, when you treat a place too permanently, you can easily weigh it down. But when you treat it as mobile, you keep it light and airy, flexible, agile even. Whether you’re moving or not, that’s the farm you want.

I wrote a story recently about a farmer named Ben Hartman and lean manufacturing in agriculture. I won’t get too much into it here, as I got way into it over at Civil Eats, but one of the things Ben did to lean up his farm was to just take stuff to the dump. Loads and loads of tools and junk he wasn’t using got hauled off or sold because, as he wrote in his book, even if excess stuff doesn’t have a literal cost, it has a psychological one.

And as I walked around our old property this week I felt that cost. I realized how burdened our farm was with our tinkering, with indecision, with general stuff, and how much that in turn burdened us.

So as we look towards the new farm, I’m going to remember this ache, this pain, and keep in mind that the farm feels it, too. If I can barely move after taking four loads to the dump, you can only imagine how the farm felt lugging all that for four years. Not good. Not healthy. Not agile, that’s for sure. Now, I hope, it feels as alive as we always wanted it to feel, and I hope we can maintain always remember to keep our operation lean. Not just for ourselves, but for that land as well.

– Jesse.

house.

THIS & THAT.

Some random photos from the past few weeks on the farm.

preps.Biodynamic preparations we spread on our compost pile.

foggy morning.Foggy morning mulching the garlic.

shiitakes.Surprise flush of shiitakes!

bridge.Finding hidden treasures as we walk around the new property.

exploring.More exploring.

 

OUR BRAVE LAMENT.

I don’t know about you, but when I am down I turn to words. And I have not been this down in a long while.

If you are not down, that’s okay, but I’m struggling. I’m struggling to understand my country. That isn’t to say that I don’t love it, or that I don’t wish with my entire soul that I understood it. I’m simply stating a fact: when I look at half of America, I see something I cannot recognize.

So let’s talk.

What happened to you, America? What happened to the land of the brave? You used to fight demagogues like the one you just elected, and die for the rights he stands against––freedom of press, of protest, of religion, of freedom. When did you become such a fearful, unwelcoming tundra? Afraid of Muslims. Afraid of gay rights. Afraid of women in power. Afraid of immigrants––without whom I have no idea what most of us would eat. Afraid of losing your guns, which you horde to protect you from everything else you are afraid of.

Are you not saddened by that? Or more importantly, do you not realize how acting upon these insecurities to such a degree may make you feel safer, but only serves to increase the real need for fear in others? We have so little to be afraid of in this country, and yet, selfishly and dangerously, we let fear guide us.

And this fear harms so many sons and daughters who, no matter their color or nationality, are still all born with soft skin and joyful cries. Because so long as fear drives our country, their parents will struggle to keep them safe from harm or prejudice. If you are a parent, or a human, that should crush your feelings. It leaves mine devastated.

The world is changing, but it has always changed, and more to the point, it will always change––legislation cannot stop it. Change isn’t just our only constant, it is nature’s design. Animals adapt. Bacteria adapt. Fungi adapt. When something doesn’t adapt, it dies out. This isn’t speculation, this is science. Stubbornly preserving the country as you wish it was, isn’t just delusional, it’s an active step towards obsolescence, the last gasp of something so lacking in bravery as to suffocate from its absence, taking the world down with it.

You cannot circumvent the laws of change. And our constitution is built to encourage it. The laws of change state that competition is healthy, adaptation is king, but power is always checked and balanced. Symbiosis is the closest thing any one person can have to power, and Donald Trump is, as of right now, represents everything but symbiosis.

Symbiosis starts with empathy––to put ourselves in the shoes of those we affect and live for moment, not to understand how they can help us, but to understand how we can help each other. Symbiosis is to actively imagine being shouted at by a passerby because you’re brown skinned, or talked over because you’re a woman, or told to “speak English” by a stranger while you talk to your daughter in Spanish. Imagine it, really imagine it. Feel what that’s like. Then make the next decision in your life based upon what that’s like, and how you can help.

I have put myself in your shoes and am overwhelmed by the fear. Where is the bravery? Bravery is no longer something people do because it’s right. For many, bravery is what they need just to leave the house, to speak another language in public, to wear a hijab, to simply exist in the skin with which they were born. That is bravery, absolutely, but bravery shouldn’t be required to just be yourself. If so, this is no longer an essay on fear or bravery, but the eulogy of our dearly departed America.

And though our history is certainly filled with hate, our future doesn’t have to be. We can reject these sentiments, be brave, and welcome change with open arms. We are better than that, we are braver. Because the brave do not have to be the minority to the fearful. Fear is an emotion, bravery is a choice. We can choose to be brave. And I believe that for our country, for our citizens, for our freedom, for our children, we must. If Trump is to be our president, he needs to see that we are still brave, and we demand he use our bravery, not our fear, to lead us.

– Jesse.

peace.

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