HOMEGROWN

Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Troubling irreconcilable paths reconciled with breakfast

There are some mornings when you wake up and it's a reasonably pleasant day and you have nothing in particular to fret about, and yet you can't shake the feeling that you have absolutely everything to fret about.

This is one of those mornings.

In about one year, my partner and I will leave the safety of the Portland's liberal bubble and head back to California where we were both raised so that I can join up with my dad and uncle and carry on my family's farming tradition. Couture Farms has been around for over a century; it hasn't always been in the same location nor has it always grown the same sort of crops, but it has existed as a family run operation for that long. The farm is part of the production machine of the California's San Joaquin Valley. The I-5 corridor can be seen from particular spots on the land and the counties in the area are some of the poorest in the nation. Needless to say the whole situation doesn't endear itself easily to outsiders.

Now, the farm itself. It is a 2,400 acre behemoth (although compared to some of CA's agribusiness, 2400 makes us small potatoes) made up of pistachios, almonds, asparagus, pomegranates, melons, wheat, and about 15 full time employees and their families. We primarily organic, and have long term goals of moving into more biodynamic practices. We run drip systems to make the most of water supplies. We just started making our own compost tea and have created our first compost windrows. We have hedgerows of California natives to bring back biodiversity. Overall, we have a lot to be proud of but on this fretful morning, I still see so much to do.

But mostly what I'm turning over and over in my mind is this: how do I reconcile wanting to be a homegrown girl while my livelihood will be dedicated to an enterprise that is dependent on at least most of the population not being homegrown oriented? I know there are things to do such as being a true steward of the land and trying to rebuild the communities in the area (both of which I fully plan on doing) but the bottom line is that farming is a business.

That's all for my first musings. My partner just said some magical words: "potato pancakes for breakfast?".
Maybe it doesn't need to be such a fretful morning after all.

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Comment by Cornelia on December 6, 2010 at 2:43pm
Hmmm...I see. I like your knitting analogy and think it's spot on. Very few people are able to produce all of their food. This site is more about knowing and understanding the process of raising good food, rather than eliminating the need for someone else to grow/raise food for us. Good luck with the changes ahead of you - looking forward to hearing more!
Comment by Caitlin Couture on December 6, 2010 at 12:51pm
Hi Cornelia,
I think what I was trying to convey (and probably very cynically) is the chain reaction of more people feeding and providing for themselves off of their own land = less demand of produce grown by larger scale farmers = those farmers exporting more of their goods versus using them to feed those in their area. Now, I'm sure I'm exaggerating the consequences but that was pretty much my main train of thought. It'd be like owning a sweater factory while you personally always make your own sweaters and never buy them, from say, The Gap.
Thanks for reading =)
Comment by Cornelia on December 6, 2010 at 10:49am
Hi Caitlin, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm not clear why your enterprise is "dependent on at least most of the population not being homegrown." Can you explain that a bit more?

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