By Brennan Henning, Farm Fellow
Uprooting your life and moving somewhere new is always going to be difficult, but as I have found recently, it also opens up the opportunity to challenge and grow yourself. New places introduce you to people that think differently from you, act differently than you, and have traditions different from you. It is a fresh reminder that the way I view the world isn’t perfect and that I have an infinite amount of things to learn if I keep an open mind. One of my biggest takeaways so far is the importance and intricacies of community, a change in thought instilled from reading the works of Wendell Berry and seeing its application through everyday life up here on the mountain.
For those not familiar with Wendell Berry, he is a fantastic essayist, poet, and environmental activist who has led an interesting life contrary to societal standards. The first part of his life shows a story that included success after success, University of Kentucky to Stanford, Stanford to writing his first novel, well-received writings to NYU professor. Then, as everything seemed to be going well from an outsider perspective, he quit his teaching career to move back to his birthplace of Henry County, Kentucky and start a farm. He rejected the trend of pushing onward to bigger and more important jobs in favor of a job he saw as adding more to the world. Much of his writing speaks of the importance of sustainable agriculture and healthy rural communities as well as the exploitation of rural areas by corporate America.
After growing up just outside of a large city for my whole life until college, surrounded by successful individuals with high expectations, I can assure you that little Brennan would have been shocked to learn that I would end up on a farm shortly after college. Each and every one of the Fellows has a different reason for why they’ve ended up here, but I also think many of us are progressively figuring out why we are here and Berry’s writing has been a huge answer to why I might be here. Farming and agriculture are inherently the backbone of society today and therefore the communities that support them are just as important. Berry urges his readers to Think Little about solutions to big issues. While the problems we are faced with as a society are daunting and seem impossible to fix, maybe the answer is to focus on small things that we can control and impact. When many people are focused on bettering and strengthening their communities in healthy ways, the little things can add up to formidable solutions to these large problems.
This sort of thinking starts with our own small community up on the mountain. Creating a tight knit community that encourages and supports each other in our goals is of the utmost importance to begin to tackle big issues. We are a group that has lofty goals of fixing complex issues within the food system and beyond. Small things like the support and community we have formed here has given me hope that the change we seek is attainable more so than anything else. Watching and learning the important characteristics of community from workshop leaders and community members of the surrounding area in Monterey and elsewhere has also been vital. Not to say that forming meaningful and healthy community is easy, but it is nonetheless crucial in creating a world that I want to see in the future. Maybe creating that world we want our kids to grow up in doesn’t start with anything grand and unachievable but starts with simple, little things that add up.