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There Are Answers That Require a Collective

By Alex Youssef, Farm Fellow

When the cohort arrived on the mountain, at least once a day for two weeks we were asked some version of the question, “why are you here?” My answer to this question has changed, remade into something(s) else in real-time by my experiences on the mountain, on the farm, and in my small and growing community. Each cohort member has at least a partial answer they use for this question that changes just as often as mine does, but I wonder if it's even something we can even answer alone.

I think AMI is both a question and an answer of sorts. The question is asked in the produce we harvest, the beds we prep, the onions we weed. It is asked in the cabins we share and the chore schedule push-pinned to the corkboard in the kitchen. The question is: How do we take this learning from the mountain, an incubator, to the lives of other people around us? How do we rethink how we grow food and how can it affect the communities we build? How do we give people a relationship to the land if we’re not sure what our own is?

Poet Solmaz Sharif said in an interview for Lux magazine, “I don’t think I ever fully considered land and one’s own mortality in the face of it.” She was talking about the daunting starkness of rock formations in the Arizona desert as it relates to her sense of “home” and permanence. I think about her statement in another way. In trying to create a world where people have a relationship with the land they occupy with physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their preferences and dietary needs, I ask myself how to contend with the knowledge that this mission will not be accomplished in my lifetime.

Barring global catastrophe, we don’t get to build a world from scratch. We move under the radar within our current systems, building resistance networks, cooperatives, and relationships within our community. We start small and grow. There isn’t one answer, one perfect alternative to industrial agriculture or white supremacist capitalism. There are millions of tiny answers, adding up to move the needle. The through line, the thing they all have in common, is that they aren’t individual solutions. We can’t do them alone.

Some answers require a collective.

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