In the 19th century more then 30 million bison roamed the plains west of the Mississippi river. They were so common we took them for granted. Lust for their tongues, their hides, and just plain cruelty brought them to the edge of extinction. At their low point, only 25 Bison roamed freely, all within the confines of Yellowstone National Park, where an army garrison kept poachers at bay.
Twenty-five was not enough. The bison were doomed except that private citizens, often wealthy ranchers, stepped up. Some of them had kept private herds of bison corralled on their land, safe from poachers. They donated those animals to the herd inside Yellowstone, and the bison was pulled back from the brink of annihilation. Thousands now roam in multiple herds, and every year surplus animals are moved to build the population elsewhere.
The bison were saved.
In the 19th century millions of people drew a living from the land beneath their feet. The knowledge of how to plant, grow, harvest, and preserve in cooperation with nature was so common we took it for granted. In the decades that followed we found other ways to get our food. Instead of eating what we saw grown and harvested near us, our food came from farther and farther away. People became separated from the production of the very food they ate every day, and in the gap between people and their food came processing and chemicals that no one talked about.
The knowledge of how to draw our existence from the earth in cooperation with nature faded. What once was common now became rare. Like the bison, the ability to plant and grow in harmony with nature hangs at the precipice of extinction. Even as more and more people wake up to what’s happened and demand change, the knowledge of how to live and eat healthier isn’t common enough to support the movement. People want to do better, but they don’t know how.
What we need is a way to bring that knowledge back into our culture, to rebuild the skills of farming crops and animals in a way that brings people closer to the food that sustains them and back to harmony with nature.
Across America, a small number of teaching farms, like The Dirt Rich School at Compass Rose Farms in Port Townsend are helping people learn what once was common knowledge. Those new farmers will go out and train others, growing food and raising up the next generation of sustainable living, bringing it back from the edge of oblivion. But like the bison in Yellowstone, this movement needs an influx of resources to make it happen. These teaching farms can’t grow crops for their communities, train the next generation, and build sustainability all on their own. They need helpers who can supply critical resources when they’re needed. Without the private herds, the bison would have died out. Without your help, The Dirt Rich School and other teaching farms won’t be able to do what needs to be done.
Sustainability and healthy food have to do more than just limp along as a fringe movement that everyone likes but doesn’t change much. Factory farming that depends on chemicals and brings you food from 12,000 miles away, food you never see until you tear open a bag or peel off a layer of plastic, has it’s heroes. Dow, Monsanto, corn subsidy programs, and public universities that teach students how to supply the processed food industry make sure that way of living and eating goes on. No factory farmer goes it alone. Sustainable farmers and those who train them can’t go it alone, either. We need our heroes, too.
Those with the means have to step up. It wasn’t enough for those ranchers to each protect 10 or 15 bison. They had to see when the time was right and do what needed to be done. It isn’t enough to like sustainable agriculture or to buy local produce. It’s time to support teaching farms like The Dirt Rich School at Compass Rose Farms.
If we’re going to get beyond a few local producers and make sustainable living available to everyone we need places where people can learn what once was common knowledge. To do that, places like The Dirt Rich School need resources to provide classroom space and teaching opportunities. They have the knowledge. They can do the teaching, but they can’t do everything, not all at once, not fast enough to push this movement where it needs to go.
If we don’t grab this moment in time, if we let the interest in sustainability whither, then it will never be more than it is right now. That’s where you come in. The Dirt Rich School needs a barn, a barn to teach in, a barn to be the center of learning an old way of living so it becomes new again. Like the ranchers who saved the bison, you need to help save sustainability. You need to be a hero.
If you are reading this letter it means you know this movement is important and you’re in a position to help. This is no time to be shy. Like the ranchers who provided the bison, you can help build a future of sustainable living. You can do more than others so you must.
Our world needs sustainable agriculture. We need to train people to do it. The Dirt Rich School needs a barn to make it happen. It’s a revolution, and every revolution needs its heroes. The bison had those ranchers. Factory farms have Monsanto. This revolution needs you.
It’s time to step up.
Please visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1415709835/feeding-the-future and become a hero.