What does it mean to be a part of a farm community?
Well there are the obvious things, like cute pig photos on instagram, long-winded email reminders for chicken sales, and of course the… natural fragrances you catch while driving by.
And there are the tangible things that you are lucky to have access to. Fresh eggs, healthy meat, homegrown produce, and other local products. It can be such a blessing to be able to purchase high quality goods and know exactly how they were produced, right in your own neighborhood.
But what about the things that can’t be bought? That can’t really be measured? In ecology, we call them “ecosystem services.” According to Wikipedia, ecosystem services are “the many and varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy ecosystems.” These benefits may include a bounty of wild foods to eat, fresh water to drink, clean air, natural purification of toxins or pollutants, and of course many forms of recreation and even positive effects on mental health and relationships. All of these and anything else you might think of fall under the category of ecosystem services. For us town residents, we are incredibly fortunate to live in a relatively undeveloped area, where local ecosystems are intact and freely offer us these services.
Sustainable farms benefit immensely from ecosystem services. The health of the local environment allows farmers to work with the land, not against it. Natural sources of feed for livestock and nutrients for crops are an awesome beginning for the production of great food for us. It makes a farm something to embrace and enjoy in your neighborhood, instead of a stinky, ugly, uncomfortable thing like an industrial style farm that you likely wouldn’t want to have around.
The best farms, in my own humble opinion, are those that can use these ecosystem services and give something in return. This is the basis for regenerative agriculture, which Farmer T practices here at The Farm. Regenerative agriculture is (thanks again to Wikipedia) “a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems.” Conservation. Rehabilitation. These farms are invested in the ecosystem they work within, and the community that surrounds it. The practices they use are not only avoiding damage to the environment, but actively improving it. Promoting the health of topsoil and the microbiomes within, improving air and water quality, even sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, these and more are all things we can thank sustainable farming for. And all these beautiful benefits spread beyond the farm as well. The food you eat is better. The air you breathe is cleaner. Your time outdoors can be so much more fun and rewarding. You have an opportunity to learn about how agriculture and the environment interact, right in your own backyard.
It is wonderful to be part of a farm community. What other ways has your life been improved by living so close to your food? Have a great week, grab something good to eat, and don’t forget to thank your local farmers!