Friday, May 11, 2012

why the poor farm?

What a weird name for a blog. Why would anyone want to be poor, or worse yet, live on a "poor farm?"

A little background: our family was able to buy a small urban property three years ago. A house, a large workshop, and 1/2 acre of solid grass (the previous owners weren't big on gardening-- we considered it a blank slate). We had been dreaming of a place of our own, to grow some food, make some things, and have a sweet little life. We thought it would be in the country, but we hadn't found anything in our price range, and we decided to stay in the city, close to family. Three years and many garden projects later, this small piece of land has become our own little urban subsistence farm.

In the course of getting to know the neighborhood, we discovered that this piece of land was once part of the "Davidson County Poor Asylum," an early home for the poor, which was self-financed through the agricultural products produced by the residents. There are several fascinating accounts of the history of this land, and we look forward to reading more.

Every time we dig in the soil, we find strange treasures (or trash, depending on your perspective)-- the natural consequences of digging where many people have lived over the years. We always wonder how that bottle got there, which child lost that old toy or marble. Knowing this piece of the past has provided a bit of insight and a connection to those who cared for this land before us. We also share a kinship with the poverty of that time-- our country is struggling through difficult economic times, and our family in particular experienced a reduction in income that would have been much more difficult to weather without the hope we found in our garden. We love the sense of empowerment that comes from growing our own food, the resilience provided in the soil. When other systems fail, it is important to know that one can literally feed oneself and one's family. We see truth in Wendell Berry's statement that "eating is an agricultural act," and in Michael Pollan's assertion that eating is a political act, too. Every calorie we produce here is value added to our household budget and a closer connection to our food and land.

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