THE GREENHORNS & THE NEW FARMERS ALMANAC ENVISIONING A FERTILE FUTURE
As we enter the season of seed saving, of easing into dormancy and beginning to consider next season, forward planning, this week we explore some big thinking for the future in conversation with Severine Von Tscharner Fleming of Smithereen Farm, a certified organic farm in down east Maine, and founder of The Greenhorns, a collective who believe “humans must reform agriculture to survive on this planet” and whose mission is to “create a welcoming cultural space and a practical professional resource for those new to ecological farming.”
The Greenhorns' projects include The New Farmers Almanacs, and the Earthlife series, a digital magazine and podcast for the intrepid young farmer. The newest edition of The New Farmers Almanac is themed "Grand Land Plan", and "serves as an antidote to the repeating story of helplessness in the face of climo-politico-econo-corona-chaos" all around.
In our conversation, Severine shares her life’s work of "collectively envisioning and growing a more fractal and very fertile future."
Severine was featured my first book, The Earth in Her Hands, and I am excited to share her voice with you all this week.
Photos in this week's show notes are courtesy of Severine, The Greenhorns, and bio portraits by Thomas Baldwin and Jordan Kinley.
You can follow Severine's work online on at Thegreenhorns.org, SmithereenFarm and on Instagram @thegreenhorns
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JOIN US again next week, when we’re joined by gardener and Chef Dave Smoke McCluskey an Indigenous foods educator and member of the Mohawk Nation, who “ wants you to think about the history of the ingredients in your meal, including those originating from the Native American lands we in the US live on. According to the North American Food Systems Network, His quest for flavorful real food stems from one simple yet elusive question of his peoples’ past: “What has been lost?” Listen in!
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Thinking out loud this week:
The recurring themes singing to my soul in this conversation with Severine – her way with words, her big hearted seeing and thinking and her enthusiasm are these: Invitation, true inquiry, and the lovely lived concept of fractal relationships – like lupine, like apples, like crystals – formed from a generative circular relational network… like all of us here….
So, many of you podcast listeners will have noted a glitch in last week’s podcast break audio notes from me – specifically that for some time the first and second break notes were pretty much the same. Which goes to show you that we are just human over here – me and Matt, who tends to the audio production – every week – sometimes sprinting sometimes struggling to get a new episode out in the world. It’s good to show our humanity- our faults and fancies, to hold them up – let the sun shine through them, right?
Here’s another fault line I want to share with you in this shared world we gardeners navigate.
I’ve been a public voice and speaker for several years now, since 2008 when my first program aired on my local public radio, but more nationally since 2016 with the launch of Cultivating Place. Most of you know this. Everything I do on Cultivating place is aimed at demonstrating the power gardens and gardeners have to grow the world better on so many fronts of great concern to us all- gardening makes a difference on individual, communal, environmental, cultural and economic fronts.
I love offering out conversations on Cultivating Place that run the widest possible spectrum of faces, voices, genders, perspectives, because this full view grows me, makes me and my garden stronger, smarter. Recently I engaged in a conversation on social media with several others about our shared disappointment that the fall speaking roster for one of our major botanical institutions in the US was once again featuring all white faces. As a white face, I am disappointed in this lack of representation and in this failure to be a far truer reflection of our horticultural world.
It was only in the midst of this engagement about a shared disappointment that I saw an aspect of my own agency as a speaker for such institutions, a point of agency that allows me not only the capacity to do better but also the responsibility to do better. In the past I have passed on speaking requests that were far more appropriate for one of my many esteemed Indigenous, Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, colleagues. But I had never looked at the panels on which I have always been proud to serve. Immediately following this online back and forth, I went and looked at my own upcoming speaking engagements.
It will come as a disappointing and sad but not necessarily surprising fact to you listeners that by year's-end I will have been a speaker in an all white roster more than once. This sits so sharply for me, in stark contrast to what I say I believe in. This hits me right where I live.
I will share with you not as a way of excusing or redeeming myself so much as to demonstrate for myself and anyone else – where to now? I am as any of you, trying hard to make enough of a living to justify my work, trying to support my household, my daughter’s, my old age. But following this awareness, I have returned to event organizers, people I admire and enjoy and believe in, and pointed out my own unhappiness around this fact of overwhelming whiteness. I offered to return half of my fee in order for it to be invested in greater representation at these tables.
The horticultural world is rich with a true diversity of great speakers, advocates, enthusiasts, experts, and influencers. I should not be at any table at which there is not appropriate representation. As a speaker, I have the power to say that in the future I will simply not be a speaker at a table that does not have appropriate representation. While this awareness came to me too late to authentically reconcile the disconnect this year, expect better from me next year. Expect more foresight much farther in advance.
It is not perhaps an enormous change, but it is a change I have in my toolbox and I fully intend to use. I appreciate listeners who have engaged with me in conversation about this very gap between my own expressed expectations and mission and the reality of these events.
One thing we don’t need more of in this world is performative and empty words. I am not accountable to everything or everyone, but I am absolutely accountable to the lessons of my garden and to you my garden community who join me here.
We are never – I am never - going to get everything right all the time, but when and where we see we can do better, we need to meet that moment. Pick ourselves up, dust our knees off, offer acknowledgement and apology, and start again.
Expect better from me – don’t just expect it but demand it. Demand all the complexity and strength of real diversity, in and out of the garden.
And, keep growing....
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