Mentoring those who will inherit our planet is becoming more and more important. As more and more of our existence becomes mediated by electronica, caring and compassionate human contact is becoming less available to many. The vast majority of young people are aesthetically astute and see our degrading infrastructure as evidence of an old way of doing business for what it is, an albatross around our collective neck. The aesthetics of a new way need to be discussed, cared about and nourished in the minds of our young people. Livelihoods that allow young people to be creative, and resourceful, like farming need to have the art of synergy explicitly taught to a vast many more young folks who will carry sustainability forward, having seen the nauseating result of doing things the other way. Last year saw the largest number of young people ever go into farming, unleashing massive potential for future growth and jobs. Farming country always has a series of seasonal positions for those eager to work.
Oftentimes, as we get more ecologically conscious, labor can concentrate in and around a farm in ways that have not been seen for generations. We can work from the farm and often are more connected in the barn today than anyone had ever been in town forty or fifty years ago. Heck, modern technology puts more powerful information in the hands of the average farm hand that the state highway department had just two decades back. In days of old, you were lucky if you could find a few aerial photos after an arduous trip into the county agricultural extension office. Now, type in the closest town name and you can scroll through a virtually infinite series of photos that make up most of the land area on Earth.
Getting to know our planet again after generations of abuse and neglect will take time, but with the guiding hands of people who have experience with ecology and farming, we can bring up a generation of farmers who know that all of our human activities, across the landscape need to care for the Planet, her people and produce profits. Neglecting any one of the three spells catastrophe. It is truly an art to see diversity upon a blank canvass. Many of the young farmers have just that. Cash crop corn has a devastating affect on the land. It can take years of learning to look at acreages destroyed by modern agriculture, to see what has gone on and what needs to be done to bring them back from the extreme poverty that has been rent upon them. I have seen fields so abused that salts were crystallizing on every rise and wherever the land had a break in slope, gravel showed instead of soil. It can be an art to see where the redemption will come more swiftly and where it will be a harder row to hoe.
We need to teach young farmers about concepts like environmental triage, lest they break their backs or their budgets trying to fix places that are too far gone, fighting the winnable battles and concentrating on the areas that will do the most good. When I was young, I became extremely agitated when this concept was introduced to my mind. How can we write off as hopeless any part of our Great Mother Earth? I would ask. In my years I have begun to understand that much of the damage that humans have unleashed will persist longer than any of us care to imagine. Helping guide the young fresh faces that are going into agriculture will not be easy. With the multi-trillion dollar food industry banging their same old drum, it will take great effort and keen strategies to make the voice of Mother Earth heard above the din, but I believe that there are those who seek a lifestyle closer to the Earth for the same reasons we old timers did. To smell a healthy soil, to sleep well at night knowing that your seeds are safe in the ground and that sunrise will greet you in the morning. When it sets, it will be time to rest for tomorrow’s unique schedule. Being closer to the Earth is just one way to start learning to understand, relate to and fully appreciate our surroundings.
If we all pull together, we can guide the ship of our collective state toward safer and less turbulent waters.