February 21, 2003,
Kutztown, PA: Building a regenerative farming web
site at The Rodale Institute® in 2003 is a deliriously
daunting task. This is not because we have to think up good
things to do. Rather, it’s because we have to be stern,
self-disciplined and resolute to push back the lists of tantalizing
possibilities to focus on what is even remotely humanly possible
Fortunately, the yearning to find a young journalist traveling
the world, reporting on organic agriculture, got catapulted
via serendipity from concept to reality before it was consigned
to our long list of “things to do.”
A casual mention in Virginia to my wife’s cousin triggered
a response from a family member another generation down the
line in Ohio. “I think I’m really going. I can
write. Will you have me?” Jason Witmer wrote early last
autumn as he began his post-college life.
It is this kind of confident exuberance that we hope to tap
from farmers and farm-supporters around the world. We are
laying the groundwork for a network of grassroots correspondents—writing
when they can about whatever shapes their farm and world—that
will populate NewFarm.org with diverse and authentic global
We in North America know woefully little about the joys,
struggles and situations in most nations. Western corporate
media outlets seldom make space or time for real world news
at the popular level.
Global from the get-go
The regenerative farming movement has been global since its
start, when English and then U.S. writers began to “discover”
the traditional farming wisdom of India and the Orient. We
now have a rich network of collaborating organic, farmer-based,
appropriate-technology, fair-trade, community oriented and
bio-regionalized efforts. These entities have been galvanized
to be pro-active for their mutual survival as the local impacts
of the commodity-based globalization become locally apparent.
Just as all politics is local, all popular movements derive
energy from the power of human stories to personalize both
hope and struggle. Our site is in English, so we are dependent
on folks who can speak our language, or find somebody who
can. We want to nurture our correspondents from innovative
farms, farmer-based research centers, niches in food marketing
and positions in agricultural advocacy or education. Sometimes
they will speak from a life-time of experience in one place—other
times they will bring an outsider’s curiosity and perspective
to their writing.
We want especially to hear from young people. Winter organic
and sustainable ag conferences are remarkable for the number
of youth present. They bring a reverence for their elders,
yet dare to ask irreverent questions about what is yet to
be. They bring energy and vision. Those who last will also
bring a willingness to listen and reflect. Watch for their
Witmer’s assignment is to sketch the outstanding people
he meets as he heads from Thailand to India to Spain to who-knows-where
until June. He and Derek Kratzer—his fellow-Ohioan,
cousin and traveling companion—planned their sojourn
through the auspices of WWOOF, World-Wide Opportunities on
Organic Farms. This group helps volunteers to connect with
organic farmers who welcome the help for their operations.
Find out a bit about Witmer in his self-introduction. Read
about the icy-cold seats of his dad’s beloved orange
pick-up, and just how dangerous it is for restive young men
to spend too many hot hours picking sweetcorn and wondering
He left January 8 for Thailand. His first dispatch describes
his training in a localized use of adobe in a small hamlet.
His teacher is an innovative, dynamic organic farmer already
making news far beyond his own fields.
We’re serious about a network of global correspondents.
Help us find farmers from many nations willing to tell their
stories in small doses over time, as their lives unfold and
their farms develop. Or volunteer, if this sounds like you.
Either way, just email Greg
Bowman. If you’re interested in a writing sojourn,
send a sample background essay (up to 500 words) and a list
of at least five possible topics or themes. Attached photo
files help. If you have contacts with farmers or others, provide
email (when possible) and other contact and background information.
Now, on to Thailand!