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 to accomplish.
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 voices.
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 words here.
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 “what if…?”
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!