Returning to the Land
November 16, 2019 9:56 AM   Subscribe

"In Northern New Mexico, these farmers are attempting to redefine what success looks like. They are less concerned with how much of a living they can make and more concerned with how to live. [...] Donne Gonzales was crying, worrying over how she would pay the $1,000 she owed for rent in Albuquerque every month, stooping over to pull weeds in her family’s greenhouse in Chamisal, when suddenly the Earth took all the pain and hardness from her. “I just felt everything leave my body, into the Earth, if that even makes sense,” she said. “And it was just okay, everything felt better, everything melted away. It was complete peace, complete, complete peace. And sometimes it doesn’t even make sense but the Earth will take anything from you. It’s our mother, it’s our healer, it does, it will do anything for us. Mamas do, mamas always do. She did that for me.”

"'We need more people just doing what seem like these simple things of building more compost piles and trying to grow more vegetables,” Alyssa said. “And it seems pointless, and it seems like it’s too small of an action, but it’s necessary if these systems are going to get built, if these feedback loops are going to get started.'

These small actions are what make up the political “cause” Joseluis talked about, the cause that is the journey back home. Donne, when she can, trades and shares her vegetables, to reintroduce barter into the local economy. Matthew is reading as much as he can to identify all the different plants on his land so that he can eventually make use of them. Angel hired two teenage interns this past summer, and they helped him plant blue corn, chile and carrots."
posted by stoneweaver (13 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Success, economically-speaking, is simply having no unmet needs.

Controlling one’s wants tho, that is the tricky bit. . .

Plus bartering for e.g. an arterial stent can be difficult these days; ah I see the article hits that note here:
If healthcare were less expensive and utilities and transportation were public, she said, it would be possible for people to work less stressful jobs that would allow them to spend more time in their gardens and on their farms.
Land is a magical thing, in that you can apply labor and capital (tools and mechanization) and have its produce to live off / trade with others. As examined in this Mitchell & Webb sketch (nsfw language) ...
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2019 [9 favorites]

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Ah, well.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:23 AM on November 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

I've been thinking for many years about something an acquaintance once said, that people who live in cities are the people who can't or don't know how to be self-sufficient. I go back and forth on this, relative levels of daily technology, forms of sociability, culture, and generally the fruits of the cosmopolitan project.

By this token, as a committed urbanite I'm jealous of people who can check-out and tend enough acreage to participate in a significant barter culture and generally execute on a fairly-complete self-sufficiency. It would be cool if there was a movement not so much toward the fragile Anglo communes of friend-families (and cults), but toward the French version of officially self-governing hamlets.

I realized a while back that one of the causes of the "rural voter" problem is that the US is not creating ghost towns anymore. Every locality that exists seems to feel it should continue to exist, but rather than the government backfilling an economy that no longer exists, it would be cool if something like villages could emerge from them in a movement of self-sufficiency. Of course this isn't realistic for Detroit, but there are a lot of 200ppl towns out there. Taking the French Commune model they could eventually be more self-governing. There are risks in recreating a frontier-isolation mentality like this, harmful politics most obviously, but I think it makes a difference that it isn't the 1800s for that matter.

It seems everybody in this story is gravitating toward the land for different reasons, so maybe something can come of that diversity of motivations besides single families and trying to grow enough rutabagas for that tricycle.
posted by rhizome at 10:48 AM on November 16, 2019 [12 favorites]

In Detroit, A New Type of Agricultural Neighborhood Has Emerged
The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is focusing on food insecurity and community investment. Taking unproductive vacant lots and turning them into community owned and worked sources for free food. Using the existing urban infrastructure to support farming! It’s literally turning Detroit into a series of villages. Also, The Italian Region Where Co-ops Produce a Third of Its GDP
posted by The Whelk at 11:29 AM on November 16, 2019 [12 favorites]

I have family in Northern New Mexico, ranchers, family by choice in Northern Idaho, organic farmers. It is a life of spiritual abundance, human, healing values, pragmatism, realism, work, work, work, and the ethic of sharing, and living with the land. I have city friends who garden, they significantly improved my life, just being around it was soothing, I still, listen to the crickets in the fall, only by phone, many, many miles away.
posted by Oyéah at 11:31 AM on November 16, 2019 [11 favorites]

It’s really interesting to me that you see the people in this story as going back home for different reasons. When I read it, they seemed part of a unified whole - the desire to live not in pursuit of materialistic gain but in connection to the earth and their ancestors. It’s making me consider how much of what I got out of this piece is backfilled in by living here. Like - your example of the French hamlets is so fascinating to me, because of course this has been happening here in New Mexico for hundreds of years. I was raised eating what we grew in the 80s, and have been steadily returning to the old ways including rehabbing the land where I live. For a lot of us here, living off the land is at most a generation removed.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:36 AM on November 16, 2019 [8 favorites]

(Just to be clear, I am not disagreeing with your read or criticizing it. I really am genuinely taken with how you saw disparate stories and how that translates elsewhere. Metafilter at its best gives us new ways to think about something.)
posted by stoneweaver at 11:41 AM on November 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Thank you for posting this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:48 AM on November 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

A really good article. My family lived in Santa Fe then Albuquerque for a time. Back then, only hippies were going back to the land, and there were communes. I’m glad some land grant people have gone back and are doing alright. It is a huge slog remediating neglected land. I’m glad for all the people who got off harmful drugs especially!
On people who go to cities to live. I had no choice. I can’t drive. Living that far out, you need to be able to drive. I have to at least have public transit. Out that far it’s non-existent.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:11 PM on November 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

I really relate to this in certain ways, having left a good career in Austin TX, to establish a home garden, and rehabilitate the very small bit of land we own in New Mexico. I can tell people see my choice as a failure, and to me that's rediculous, since every single day I wake up happy, loving the life I'm making. How many people can say that? It may be a small thing but I truly believe that every compost bin and backyard garden/wildlife habbitat helps. It's hard work but it's filled with a sense of purpose and a million other daily satisfactions.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:51 PM on November 16, 2019 [11 favorites]

I'm always a bit chagrinned at the "back to nature" folks who follow Katjusa's bias that you need a car. Motorcars are what, 130 years old now? Only a century where they've been available to the general populace as a commodity?

It's bizarre to go back to medieval farming techniques but insist you can't survive without 20th century industrial machinery like the automobile.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:35 AM on November 17, 2019

"In Detroit, A New Type of Agricultural Neighborhood Has Emerged
The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is focusing on food insecurity and community investment. Taking unproductive vacant lots and turning them into community owned and worked sources for free food. Using the existing urban infrastructure to support farming! It’s literally turning Detroit into a series of villages. Also, The Italian Region Where Co-ops Produce a Third of Its GDP

Detroit is weirdly well suited to this, as it has way, way more water infrastructure than it needs (auto plants used a surprising amount), so Detroit has irrigation on lock. I mean, aside from being built on swamp anyway.
posted by klangklangston at 10:08 AM on November 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

“You have to do things that scare you in order to get somewhere. It’s scary getting out there on our own and trying to clean up a ranch that’s been neglected, it’s scary trying to get out there and take my horses with me while I’m going to school and working, and it’s scary trying to be a role model to kids. And there’s always that fear of failure, it’s always gonna be there, but you can let it linger or you can go past it and keep working. Because the time’s going to pass anyway.

posted by yoga at 4:04 PM on November 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

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