Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hoes Down - should we celebrate "rural living"?

(Photo courtesy of Marcy Coburn)
I've been meaning to post this ever since I first saw the flier for this event way back at the end of September.

What: Hoes Down Harvest Festival

Where: Full Belly Farm, Capay Valley

When: Saturday, October 3, 2009, 11a.m.-11p.m.

Why: Celebrate Rural Living "22 Years of Kickin' It Up"

Admission was $20 ($5 for kids 2-12 yrs old) and the event was sponsored by the Davis Food Co-op, Nugget Markets, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and CLIF bar.

These fliers were posted all over Davis and every time I walked by and saw one with its invitation to 'celebrate rural living,' I had to think about what that meant. Was it a good thing or a bad thing?

The flier says that all proceeds go to the Ecological Farming Association and local community groups (good). On the schedule for the day was: tasty organic food and drinks, live music and dancing, farm workshops, children's hand-on fun, farm tours, farmers' market and crafts (good).

Nothing totally stereotypical yet. Then I read through some of the workshop titles, including learning about organic fruit trees, grassfed beef, cow milking, herbs and flowers, pest control, sheep shearing, small farm equipment and more...canning and preserving; soil building: compost/cover crops/crop rotation; farm stories: writing workshop; premium olives and oil; chickens and their eggs; what’s your beef?; farming by land and sea; glorious grand grapes; soil nutrient balancing; native plant walk; blacksmith; seed saving; biodynamic compost making; leap of faith: starting a farm; and transitioning to an organic landscape.

Objectively, celebrating rural living is a good thing, a nice idea. Why not celebrate the traditions and ways of life on a farm? Drawing people in to learn about and participate in these various events helps foster appreciation and alliance with farmers and their needs/views. Perhaps. But then again, is this playing into a stereotype? Hay bales and tractor rides, canning and preserving, blacksmithing, sheep shearing, cow-milking...did they churn butter too?

Seems like these are all the things that you typically think of when you think of "farm." But is that ok? Because in a lot of cases it is true. That IS what a farm is. A cow milking, sheep shearing, tractor working, hay-bailing operation. So there shouldn't be a problem with celebrating this place and its function. It is important I guess to make sure that you don't equate all 'rural' with 'farm' -because this vision on Full Belly Farm is not what most of rural America or rural living is - but is merely one definition of it, one manifestation of how those in a rural place live.

So, on the whole, I think Hoes Down was a good thing. Celebrating this type of rural living brings good things to people doing important work and raises awareness in part of the population who might not otherwise be exposed to it.

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