Essays

You Must First Invent the Universe

While I have been involved in sustainable agriculture as a profession since 2010, this October marks the 1 year mark from when I arrived here in White Salmon and made the long-anticipated transition from being a farm employee and manager to owning and running my own farm business. Starting to achieve this dream has brought me a great deal of joy and satisfaction. Yet, my love of farming has always played tango with some of my other passions in life, one of which is exploring the many wonders and beauties this world has to offer.

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Me, hiking near Castle Rock

One of the things that I find most rewarding about time spent in nature is a discrete awareness of how small we as humans are in comparison to our world — how, though we may mistakenly believe that we are the creators and actors of all of the important things in life, we are in fact but a small piece of a much larger picture. While I may sometimes feel confused about what my purpose is and what I am trying to achieve during my time here on earth, when I am out in the wilderness among the great many other forms of life and geologic history, I feel a sense of belonging and peace. I am reminded that the world isn’t really about me, anyway, and what I find joy in is not how I am distinguished from everything else around me, but how I seamlessly become a part of it all.

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Brian, Rooney, & I in Big Sur

I recently read a very well-known Carl Sagan quote for the first time, and it struck a chord:

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

As a farmer, it’s easy to feel responsible for everything that occurs under your watch and care, to take credit for the successes and feel defeated by the failures. What we often fail to have perspective on is how we are mere orchestrators in a fantastically complicated cosmic dance, over which we really have control of only a few small variables.

Similarly, when we say our food is ‘local’, do we have enough perspective on that as well? The food you are eating may have been raised by a farmer nearby, but where does your food’s food come from? Where do the grains and the compost and the water originate, and what is their journey to their final destination? It was these types of questions that have led me on a quest to make our farm as adapted to our region as we are able, vertically from source to practice to output.

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Brian & Rooney in Big Sur

While I backpacked less than ever this year as I put all of my energy into getting Horseradish Ranch on its feet, it is my very love of nature that compels my dedication to farming as a way of help preserving and restoring what little wild places are left to us at this point in history. While I am committed to creating a thriving business, so also am I committed to trying to find different ways of doing things that are continually more in tune with the reality of our earth and our place in it, rather than the strictly human vision we often try to impose upon it. Barbara in particular has been and continues to be a source of great inspiration towards these goals (especially in my times of trial), and has enabled me to branch out in my methods and encouraged me to continually research new (or old) ways of land stewardship with hopes of better results than the status quo.

I’ve been gratified and overwhelmed by the positive response I’ve received from the community over the last month to the methods of agriculture we are employing here (dry farming, heritage breed preservation, climate and locale-appropriate inputs and technologies) and our goals behind these methods: finding a more harmonious way of existing and feeding humans conscious, flavorful food here in the Columbia Gorge. Eating is not only what we do to stave off hunger, but a way of reconnecting with our very sense of being. With every bit of food that leaves our farm, I hope to offer that experience to others as well.

-Laura

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