The entrance to Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York.
N and I live in a modest home in a modest suburban neighborhood where most of the houses date from the early to mid-1960s. (Photo above: not our house.) It’s our first house together, the first place we’ve really had space, since we spent the early years of our relationship living on dive boats and private yachts and in cheap short-term yachtie housing all over the world.
I love our house. I am more attached to our house than one should be, but it represents so much of who we are, individually and as a partnership. I love its built-in bookshelves and the odd thrift-store art and the wood stove that N hates that I use so much because he’s convinced I’m going to set the entire house on fire.
Unfortunately, our house that I love so much is surrounded by other houses. And in the other houses live people. People with dogs.
Every house around us has at least one dog; our neighbor to the east has five (five? really?) Chihuahuas. And these dogs bark. All the time. Day in and day out. And at night, too. The neighbors are at work, or at home with the TV on, or somewhere else, and it doesn’t matter to them that the dogs are barking. They don’t hear it, or they do and they don’t care. Either way, the dogs in our neighborhood have made living here hard, especially because of how much we love our house. Animal Control has no teeth and we’ve had the police called on us for harassing our neighbors when we rang their doorbell at 1AM because their dogs were out and wouldn’t stop barking.
And so we are opting out. We are opting out of a constant aural assault where listening to other people’s pets and music and television in public (and private) places is becoming commonplace. We are opting out of a society that expects us to buy cheaply-made things with built-in obsolescence to be happy. We are opting out of a “consume rather than produce” mentality. We are opting out of a desperately compromised food and health-care system designed to keep us all just a little bit sick, because there is no money to be made off healthy people and certainly no money to be made off dead people.
Some years ago, while listening to the dogs’ unending cacophony, N said that all he wanted was to live someplace quiet. And so was the name Quiet Farm born, and the title of this blog, too. (N’s suggestion for the blog title was Buckingham Shrugged. Go here if that allusion requires explanation.) We are on a quest to find our own piece of land where we can live peacefully and quietly, raising, growing and processing our own food and hopefully teaching others to do the same.
We spent last week here, at the country’s pre-eminent sustainable farming conference. The average age of farmers in the U.S. is nearly 60, and many of those farmers have no succession plan in place. Current estimates suggest that we lose nearly 40 acres of farmland an hour (AN HOUR!), most to urban development and sprawl. This conference, which is only open by lottery and which we’ve waited for three years to attend, is designed for people like us – those who are opting out.
This event is like a college semester packed into three days. We attended classes on beekeeping and poultry processing and biodynamic farming and liability insurance and finding farmland and animal necropsy. We listened to inspiring talks from Dan Barber and Mark Bittman, and we ate amazing food. Oh, and I got to cook in the kitchen of the best restaurant in the U.S. so that wasn’t a big deal for me at all.
And while we definitely skewed older than the average attendee (damn you, Millennials – you’re drowning in debt so where are you getting the money to farm?) we also reinforced our bone-deep knowledge that this is where we’re supposed to be. This is our tribe, this is our religion. Finding Quiet Farm is the most significant journey we’ve embarked on yet. Thanks for joining us.
6 thoughts on “Opting out”
Thanks Elizabeth, just ordered my bumper sticker.
Good work, Jim! For everyone else: free “No Farms, No Food” bumper stickers are available from the American Farmland Trust. Order yours today!
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