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Back of Beyond Farm is a small, family run operation in Rist Canyon, Colorado. We work closely with natural rhythms to create wellness teas from indigenous and naturalized plants. 2013 marks our 4th year of supporting our community through tasty teas. In the year ahead, we hope to continue our work of not only producing healthful teas, but also exploring the edges of what it means to farm and be a part of a place.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Indigenous Knowledge and a Sense of Place

So much of what goes through my mind - whether at home, work, or on the farm, is "How do I make this easier? What am I missing?" When I think about a new job and the struggles, and excitement of it all, it makes a perfect metaphor for the type of farming I hope to do. Starting a new job, you hopefully bring a set of skills to the position, but not always the sense of rhythm, culture of place, details and nuances of the specific work. You have to travel the course of the work to get to know it. It's so much easier when the people around you help, when the person before you is there to teach and instruct, when you have something to work off of.

When we think about farming - about feeding billions of people - not just calories, but soul and spirit, it's awfully hard to go it alone. We have extension offices, con-agra, sometimes an uncle or grandmother, Land Grant Universities, so much. What we forget is that we have the land itself. Farming is so much about one place - about the micro-climates and soil of that place. Models built off of Iowa loam or a Mediterranean climate work there! But not here.

Here, on this farm, I have to learn from the land. From the good Earth telling her story in season, failure and success. The indigenous knowledge of this place is held by the ancestors of Arapaho, Ute, Folsom man and so many more who lived from this place well and long before synthetic fertilizers. Wolves and elk, two kinds of bear, wild sheep and greenback cutthroat trout knew the land and how to live off it. And now, 150 years after all that's been undone, we're trying to rediscover. Agriculture cannot become a one style fits all mentality.

Let me give an example. Pastured poultry is an incredible movement. The chance for a humane, chicken being a chicken existence, for poultry is long overdue. But it won't work on this hillside without me eradicating the soul of the place. And while it's extreme to think of farming anything here, I venture it was as extreme when the first person decided to plant a tomato in Toronto. How do we farm anyplace well? And by well I mean, how do we reclaim that sense of place (or preserve it)? How do we engage the indigenous knowledge inherent in the land and previous generations of inhabitants?

If we're going to feed billions of people and retain our soul we'll have to answer these questions and answer them well, and in a hurry.