Inheritance Farm is a permaculture homestead in Chichester, New Hampshire. Our mission is to educate people about sustainable farm practices that use old methods of symbiotic farming, as well as incorporate permaculture principles and designs.
Everything that we have - and everything we will ever build, whether here on the family farm or later on a different piece of land - will someday belong to someone else. Much the same way the water rushing by in a stream was not created at the headwaters, our existence as stewards of the land is on the shoulders of those who came before us. Those who come next must have strong shoulders for their next generation to likewise stand upon. This has been a basic principle of land stewardship for centuries: without the land, none would survive. Since the Industrial Revolution, modern culture has rapidly been losing the basic knowledge and common practices that made our forefarmers successful. If we allow our soil and the knowledge to preserve it to perish, what inheritance are we leaving for the next generation?
The sad reality is that our culture has come to a "cutting edge" way of thinking. Those who came before - farmers, land stewards, the people with dirt under their nails from a lifetime of coaxing food from the earth - were "primitive" and are now "outdated." The problem with that way of thinking is that it means we are lost in the moment. We have become so concerned with instant gratification, we have lost the foresight of investment. This leads us to do things like destroy soil life by using pesticides and chemical fertilizers, by raising too many animals on too small a system, or by planting the same crop in the same place year after year. The goal is a bountiful crop, and in the short term, it appears to work. But in the long term, the soil will be so depleted the system will fail. Think of this: in one teaspoon of soil there are a million bacteria, all working together to enrich whatever grows there, because for the bacteria, the return investment is solid. When we kill that bacteria by misfarming the land, we kill a natural farm resource that takes years to rebuild.
On a small scale, this means poor family gardens over time. On a large scale, this means disaster for our population on this earth. Soil that took thousands, millions of years to produce is being washed into the ocean in the process of feeding us today, while we all worry - and with good reason! - that there won't be enough food to go around down the line. So many of us believe that because the power to control our own food source (and resources) is not in our hands, there is nothing we can do that will make a difference. We are so far removed from the inheritance of knowledge our ancestors left us, we can't imagine a world without the dangerous systems we have in place now.
This doesn't have to be the inheritance we leave for our children, though. We need to stop looking at "primitive" and dismissing it out of hand. The notion that "primitive" practices can solve modern problems sounds ludicrous, but with a shift in perspective, it can do exactly that. Does this mean we need to return to a world before any modernity came about? Heck, no! We are very fond of refrigeration and the advances our culture has made in understanding microbiology, for example, are pretty radical. We'll even admit that we would be hard pressed to give up Netflix. But the notion that it takes science and bureaucracy to feed people is insane. With our loss of knowledge of the basics - soil, animal husbandry, natural fuel sources and ecosystem thrival skills - went also the loss of our sense of efficacy. Permaculture gives that back to us, in abundance.
We chose the name Inheritance Farm because we believe that it is our responsibility to pass along to the next generation a sustainable and thriving planet. Too often in our culture we think of "inheritance" as something we get for free, something passed to us that is a boon, a windfall, something we have not earned but expect all the same. If we shift our paradigm away from this mindset of "wait for it to be handed to me," and instead think of "inheritance" as the continuing legacy we are passing forward, generation to generation, we will all become stewards of a better planet. By taking some responsibility for our own self reliance now, and by teaching others to do the same, our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren will inherit the greatest boon of all: the means to thrive. And ironically, if we can accomplish that, then the inheritance will, in fact, be a gift, a boon, a windfall passed along with ease and grace, forever in abundance.
Ray is part of the Ray and Randi duo, who actually don't live on the farm. They have a micro-homestead in Gilmanton, but are VERY active over at IFP and are guest bloggers for them.
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Inheritance Farm Permaculture