This I believe: That children have been relegated to a community unto themselves and are no longer well-integrated into the larger real world of childhood, work and real-time relationships with nature.
Media assaults in the form of advertising to our children’s baser competitive tendencies to become little adults, the perception that Harvard College is the only place to matriculate if one is to become successful and other misconceptions or forgotten joys have produced a generation of children who are utterly divorced from the realities of their natural world and the pleasures contained therein.
As a farmer in Boston, I find that the world of children is not too dissimilar from the world of farming and that one without the other is an incomplete circle. It is all well and good to be producing wholesome, organically grown food for an appreciative market, to bring the joys of extravagant form and colour from our greenhouses to your gardens, to feed the bodies and (hopefully) souls of others. My soul, however, is enriched by sharing the process and the property with small children.
In fact, I believe that a farm without young children becomes a farm that is strictly business, a farm without soul and work without true joy. Farming is hard work in always uncertain conditions and often quirky markets. Here in New England one of the reasons that we have become farmers is because of the independent life-style, the constant joy of discovery and the adventure of direct relationships with the elements. Who better than children could possibly keep that experience vibrant? The pure joy and excitement inherent in the childish discovery of bugs and snails, frogs, tadpoles and painted turtles, of walking sticks, daisy halos, and silvered cobwebs in the morning dew can bring sparkle to the heart of even the most exhausted entrepreneur. Child-like curiosity about relationships is the most basic necessity if one is to become a successful organic grower because a failure to perceive the reality of a situation could mean the loss of a crop or a wasted expense. To look without seeing is often the sad result of a too-sheltered or a too-hurried childhood.
Summer camps, tennis lessons and field trips (so-called) may round off the corners of youthful experience but playing in the dirt is formative and playing in a stream is instructive. The imprint gained from nature-based opportunity will be the template upon which ideas and opinions are formed and are essential if one is to value open space not for golf courses or built landscapes but as refuges for wildlife, farming, fresh air and the vistas which will sustain and refresh our essential beings. A childhood on the farm informs developing minds that verdant open space has inherent value, that real food comes from the land and that the preparation thereof is not an arcane pursuit for iconoclasts. It is not enough for our children to become independent; rather we should be teaching them by sharing the joy and wonder of interdependence and relationship.
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