November 12, 2009

commitment issues

I’ve been reading a lot of Wendell Berry's books lately, and one of the main themes throughout his essays and fiction (haven’t gotten to the poetry yet, but i’m sure it’s there as well), is that of committing to a place—working to protect and improve that place, the land and one’s community. While I am all for that in theory, I have had a very hard time putting that idea to practice in my own life.

I’ve lived in San Francisco for over ten years now, and at various points I’ve tried to commit myself to this city, but have never really succeeded. Part of this for me has to do with having grown up in two places, Sweden and California, and usually missing where I am not. Another part is my wondering if I’m really a city person. I long for more green and quiet. I also wonder if there is a place where it’s easier to build community. Often SF feels like it’s a city for (mostly hipster) 20–30 year olds and/or the wealthy.

I could go on and on about what makes me think about moving away. But one of the things that is really exciting about and makes me want to be in the Bay Area right now is the food movement. There is so much interest in making connections with surrounding area farmers. (We here are lucky to live in an area that has a lot of biodiverse, eco-conscious, farms.) Restaurants that use all locally produced or gathered food are cropping up left and right. People are raising chickens and bees in their backyards. They’re gleaning fruit and meeting their neighbors in the process. They’re building gardens and joining CSAs. Check out how this wonderful woman collects farmers’ market leftovers and distributes it to local food pantries.

I am trying to figure out what I can do to enter this movement more, to commit more to this place I call home. I do subscribe to a CSA and go to the Alemany Farmers’ market every Saturday with two lovely friends. And I sometimes write about agriculture related books here and there. But I want to do something more. Maybe join Slow Food San Francisco, attend some of the Kitchen Table Talks, go to Garden for the Environment events or volunteer at a local farm. I wouldn’t mind hanging out with some sheep. (Would love that in fact.) It would be fun to start a little group of people who go and visit different Bay Area farms on the weekends.

Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is something I’m considering, though the farm I’ve been thinking about contacting is in Sweden, so there goes the rooting myself here idea.

Starting a backyard garden (for real!) in 2010 will be a growing (oh geez) and rooting (oh geez again) experience.

Or there’s this group, amyitis, that sets up a garden with you.

What are you all doing to involve yourselves in your place more actively?

Some links about new farmers/farming methods
Redefining farming (with video)

A new family farmer (video)

The Greenhorns (trailer)

Wes Jackson is the co-founder of The Land Institute and writes about farming using nature as a model.

{Flowers and leaves all found (mostly on the ground) around this glorious place.}


Brandi said...

Wes Jackson, as you probably know, also writes about "becoming native" to our places--taking the time to really dig in and become part of the fabric of a community. That really resonates with me.
I think, though, its as much about attitude as timeframe. You can work to become native to a place even if you're not there very long.
Just a thought.

Marie said...

Really good question!

My husband and I bought our house in a suburb North of Boston 2 1/2 years ago. A town we could afford, a house we love on a nice little piece of land...but a neighborhood and town we never thought we'd live in...joke about maybe... but not live in. So, now along with eating a bit of crow, we are trying to embrace our town and become neighbors and participants in the local doings.

We've gone out of our way to meet and converse with our neighbors (many of whom question and are puzzled by our sustainable life-style).

We have an extensive food garden that we planted in our front yard. And we are frequently out working and chatting with the neighbors walking by.

We've found a local church to embrace and be supported by.

We support many local farmers and a CSA.

We're getting to know the town history through books, and old records.

We keep our antennae up for opportunities to work with neighbors, help neighbors and connect.

We perform at local events and venues whenever we can.

There's much more to be done, but it is a beginning.

Tricia said...

I've only recently started to engage with my community (we moved here 5 years ago) and am loving getting to know my neighbours and helping to build our community.

I can relate to your feelings of not knowing what to comitt to as there are so many options. I've been a member of a local organic food co-op for a while and I frequent the weekly farmers markets. More recently I joined the local Transition towns group and am currently helping to start a local eco play grop. It all takes time - but is so so rewarding.

Kerstin Svendsen said...

thanks for sharing! fun to read what others are doing. i definitely agree that it has more to do with attitude than time.

Darroch Cottage said...

Hi there, there's another website a bit like WOOFERS

We have a small farm and have found it very useful. Good luck

Laura x

Kerstin Svendsen said...

Thanks for the link Laura. I hadn't heard of that site and will def check it out!

stucco La County said...

Just so you know, the flower images you used for this post inspired me to come up with a beautiful interior painting.


We volunteer at the library shop, have a csa share, and spend the majority of our food dollars at the local farmer's market. However the biggest inroads in our neighborhood came from our garden. As it came bloom we took our extra produce & put an assortment in small brown bags which we then left on door steps. Every one of those neighbors came over the next time they saw us working in the yard. Now when we are going through the neighborhood or outside or even if our dog gets loose, lots of folks say hi. It's a start.

Eco Yogini said...

i also can relate- grew up in a tiny village, lived in four cities... back to my province which is good but still living in the city.

not sure i know the answer.

beautiful pictures- the west coast is such a fantastic place i hear!

nicola@which name? said...

i grew up in berkeley and currently live in oakland. (have lived a handful of places in between.) i agree with you about SF (no offense meant to anyone), but i agree with you about what excites me here, too. i urge you to move, but not wander too far. there are loads of bay area cities and towns that can meet your needs!

Kerstin Svendsen said...

rollerwriter, i love your brown bag story! that's excellent.
hi yogini and nicola. thanks for sharing! yes, nicola, maybe the answer is to move to the east bay...

Shaunta said...

We are in a place that feels too difficult to really integrate in to. Partly, I suppose, because we don't want to be here so we're holding back? Maybe. Thank you for this thought provoking post.