Monday, April 13, 2009

Following With Ease.



My brother is a farmer on the cusp of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In high school he was a supreme jock, semi-smooth ladies man and stellar athlete, doubtless following with ease the same path of my father who was also a socially gifted, athletic man. Yet, midway through his bullying high school jock years, he began meeting with a group of other “dudes” (aka: a small group, religiously centered) and instead of pushing me around kid-sister style, he began instead to drop tiny seeds in pots and watched as they pushed themselves up out of the dirt. Our basement was cornered with his plants. Seems that the more they sprouted and blossomed, the kinder he became. Although I cannot possibly chart this correlation into fact, I can say that he ditched his “bad-A” persona, faded away from the basketball courts, mellowed and worked in the dirt. He planted a tree in the front yard of my mother’s house – without bothering to ask permission, went off to college and beyond, farming here and there along the way. He was also a consistent “stalker” of his mentor a la literature: Wendell Berry. (I say that with kindness, only to suggest he traveled through a few states to hear a lecture or two. Or three.)

He was a very demanding brother. Often he would charge me to do, go, get, be, try, finish, etc. He pushed his interests with the confidence and superiority of an elder. He told me where I should go to school, he expressed his disappointment when I didn’t quite finish, he clogged my ears with his music and he criticized my outfits. Yet he never once told me I should start growing my own food. He never said I should try to eat organic and he wouldn’t guide me towards farmers markets. He kept his passion to himself, with the wisdom and confidence held in his mind that people would “get it” sooner or later. He was cultivating organic foods on remote farms before most of the fussy labels were even slapped on and placed in the aisle of a grocery store. He was ridiculed and labeled all sorts of mean hippy names by his peers who were heading off to business school. He refused to spray pesticides, even for Ralph Lauren. He went off to Argentina and returned drinking Matte out of a carved gourd before anyone knew what it was (I didn’t, anyway). He worked on farms in Oregon, Boston, Tennessee and scraped the dirt off his hands with dignity. I could be wrong, but in my eyes, he claimed a stake in the ethics of farming before it coincided with “trendy.” Of course, there are people who have been farming in America since before the country was named. What he does is by no means groundbreaking. I don’t mean to suggest that he is an innovator to the farming institution, only that he is an innovator to me, and I think he would be to you too if you knew him.

I don’t know why I want to glorify him. It could be because I am trying to follow his ways, or it could be because the person that ridiculed him as a “hippy-loving tree hugger” is now (in all likelihood) eating the organic food straight from where he farms. I’m just proud of him, that’s all. People who work hard deserve credit and people who are mocked because they do what they love, yet do it anyway deserve a little bit of glory, even if it is from their blogging kid sister.

4 comments:

Donn said...

Your brother has been a huge inspiration to me as well, and his commitment to good food (and society) and his unique example have helped me realize the opportunities sitting right underneath my nose. Somehow I'd never heard of Wendell Berry before him.

I couldn't resist the Facebook promotion. This is good stuff.

A.Kelley said...

Donn,

Thanks for checking it out! I'd never heard of Wendell Berry before him either, so we have that in common. Did I know you even knew my bro...? It's possible I didn't realize. Wow, I'm glad to hear he's influenced more people than me.

Beatrice said...

This is one of my favorites so far. I'm totally biased, I know. Keep it up, girl! I like what you're doing at twinyolks.

Bunny said...

I remember way back when he stayed a night at our house and really encouraged Jon and I to keep up our garden. I'm excited about his work.

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