A founding father once wrote, “I am a warrior, so my son may be a farmer, so his son may be a businessman, so his son may be a poet.” This trajectory has been reinforced by countless immigrants, as they toil away at “menial” work in order to “provide a better life” for their children. This “better life” — in the minds of recent immigrants — generally takes the form of material wealth and freedom from hard physical labor, but it all comes down to one factor: cultural approbation. In short, immigrants want their children to “succeed” in the eyes of the culture they are trying to assimilate into.
So when college-educated Gen Y-ers are eschewing traditionally respectable white-collar careers in order to toil in the dirt, we’ve got a cultural indicator worth watching. The children of businessmen and scholars were never supposed to be getting their hands dirty. They’ve taken cultural evolution to a new level as they reject the climb-the-corporate-ladder work-buy-consume-die culture and bring a hip, fresh, revolutionary spirit to the ancient practice of organic agriculture. They may be farmers, but they see themselves as warriors for restoring our food systems, and in turn our environmental and human systems, to a healthy, equitable and sustainable place. Working in the massive shadow of heavily subsidized Big Ag, they are indeed fighting a real battle.
What’s especially interesting about the current crop of young farmers is that most of them did not grow up on farms. As depicted in the recent documentary, Greenhorns, these farmers are looking at the carnage of late capitalism with fresh eyes, opting out of the dehumanizing disconnected hierarchical environments that they saw sap away their parents’ souls, and they’re following their passions into a new sort of life that involves plenty of sunshine, fresh air, self-sufficiency, connectedness to community and nature, and delicious organic food. While the “business side” of farming is an obstacle for some, these internet-savvy DIY-minded farmers are able to tap into a rich network of peers in order to figure out how to transform our food system for good.
© photos courtesy of Chris and Jenny Jackson and jennyjack farm, 2012.