Family Values, Maybe Not So “Old Fashioned.”

The Mehaffey Farm’s mission:

To provide the community with quality produce and other farm products that are delicious and safe to eat. To restore our family’s farming heritage while providing a fair income through responsible stewardship of the land that will maintain a healthy environment for future generations. To build community and promote a stimulating, educational environment so that future generations can experience farming as a viable, ethical and productive way of life.

Last winter, when the Mehaffey Farm was just a dream, we sat down as a family to create a mission statement. What we came up with helped us to formulate goals and objectives that we think will bring us and hopefully our extended community, something much more than vegetables. We seek something less tangible for everyone we touch with our ideas: let’s call it a return to “old fashioned family values.”

 Words are powerful tools. When you give something a label, it adds connotations and associations, for good or for bad. For example, the phrase “old fashioned” for us brings to mind something positive. The mission statement we wrote together put our long-held, but inchoate longings into concrete terms. What has and is unfolding from this exercise has been nothing less than amazing. Our ideas became words, words became belief, belief turned to action, and action has led to passion. 

There’s another side to the power of words. Take the term “old fashioned” in another direction. In today’s modern throw-away society it connotes something unfashionable, to be scorned, derided or sniffed at, shaken off, discarded for newer and better. But in a world of planned obsolesence, and without hardly a thought for the consequence, we’re creating an excessive stream of waste from consumer goods that clogs our planet and threatens our very survival. How do we stop it? It seems like an ovewhelming problem. On a very small scale, what we can do as individuals is make a conscious choice to re-discover some of our grandparents’ saving ways.

For us, growing vegetables is a vehicle toward a healthier, more family-centered way of life in a world that has spun out of control. It’s not that we want to go back, rather find and keep what’s good about the old, and use our brains to inform it with a new twist. We want to stop throwing out the good along with the old and step back from the race to dominate a world that’s not ours to dominate — to step back from the arrogance of thinking we can control our environment and try to live as though we are OF the environment. Don’t misunderstand. I love the tools technology puts at my fingertips. My computer makes it easier to run my business and makes this blog possible, and I can’t imagine life without my cell phone. The challenge is to find ways to still use these tools while lessening their impact on our planet through innovative recycling. 

After last winter’s brainstorming sessions our family stepped back and took a hard look at how we live. We consciously decided to make some changes that will allow us to embrace the positive meanings  of “old fashioned,” to learn  to live more simply, more lightly on the planet. To teach others about where their food comes from and what it really takes to produce it. To grow food ourselves, compost our own waste, use our vintage tractors and implements, and re-use some of the old but still functional items still on the farm more than a century after someone brought them here. We’re doing this to preserve what’s precious to us, while bringing something good to our community. To make this farm a farm again to support itself, not sell more land to developers, pave it over and turn it into more housing. It feels like a very good way to use our combined energy and talents.

I’m not saying everyone should quit their job and become farmers. That would be ridiculous. Having family land has laid a path before us that was in front of us all along. All we had to do was to see it. We’ve just recognized an opportunity to re-set our priorities and that will allow us to do our small part to change some habits that put our planet hell-bent on a trajectory toward self-destruction in the first place.

To quote Ghandi, we’d like to: “be the change you want to see in the world.” So far, Ross and I have quit good paying full-time jobs to follow our hearts. Other family members can’t wait to follow suit and still others support our plans with their full-time salaries and health insurance. By selling CSA shares, we’re trying a new, old-fashioned model that we hope will allow our family to prosper. And not just financially. What do I mean by prosperity? To most, it means having: more money in the bank, a house, a car, computers, I-phone, and other technological gadgets. We think we need all of these things to navigate in this world. And yes, they are quite useful, (and cheaply made to wear out so they generate maximum profit for their companies.) What gets us into trouble is when having to have so much stuff becomes the key to happiness and our very identity. And it gets worse when the expense of all that stuff makes us slaves to the demands of our own bloated economy.

To me, prosperity is something much simpler. It’s hoeing up a row and putting seeds in the soil and seeing them grow. Watching our bees fly in and out of the hives, weighted down with pollen. Waking early to a soft, spring morning, bending down to weed the lettuce, using my body to spread a load of compost, and plant another row of carrots, all before noon. At the end of the day, my prosperity is eating a home-cooked meal of healthy, fresh food and taking the time to sit around the table with my family and friends to eat it. On any given summer night dinner often doesn’t happen until 9 p.m., but we still cook and sit down together. My prosperity means laughter and good wine, and sharing conversation about a day well-spent, accomplishing together things that none of us could have done alone. It’s about seeing the talents of all our different family members mesh into something larger than the sum of our parts, to keep our little enterprise cooking. It’s about watching the younger generation step up to embrace a dream that seemed huge and seemingly impossible, and then watching that dream unfold before our eyes like a small miracle.

This is not the life for everyone, but maybe we can do some good with it. We may be crazy, but we’re not naiive. We know the many challenges and roadblocks that lie ahead. Change is choice, but it seems to me, staying with the status quo — doing nothing differently, is also a choice. We’ve decided to hop on this rickety old bus and see how far it takes us. And we’re not just on this bus, we’re driving it. We hope you will come along!


1 Comment

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One response to “Family Values, Maybe Not So “Old Fashioned.”

  1. Eunice

    I love this!

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