November 25, 2022
“Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts. As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection.”– Wendell Berry
Abandoning a familiar world is pretty hard.
I fear that I have recently met a number of regenerative farmers whose life line is shrinking. Getting into regenerative agriculture, they rightly believe that farming is the key to a happy life. That this style of agriculture is a solution to much greater problems. That humans- even a lot of humans- can strike a balance with the world around them.
Often, these farmers come from a different place, and a consistent message is that they somehow don’t belong. That the world will figure out that they didn’t deserve what was given them. That they are imposters.
This imposter syndrome can be crippling. “This farm doesn’t pencil out the way I said it would.” “I am working far too hard and long.” “I am losing things that I didn’t know could be lost.” “The successes that I have aren’t earned.” “I’m not enough.”
I started Blue Dasher Farm and Ecdysis Foundation (with a lot of help), believing that real farm experience was a piece that was missing from science. And that change wouldn’t come from the current scientific infrastructure that created the problems. I met farmers that claimed success in regenerative agriculture and put a plan together. With that plan, I made my own claims (more boastfully than I ought in those early days) about what was attainable in regenerative agriculture and with our own farm.
A plan without experience is necessary. But it is the most dangerous of tools, and needs to die a quick death.
In those early days, every problem that came up just needed work. I could work my way through any issue. And most of the work was from problems that weren’t on the plan.
With so little hope in this world, I wanted to give people something that they could believe in. My family. My friends. A wealth of supporters from around the world. That hope was precious. I couldn’t let them down.
Before long, I was exhausted and broken.
Similarly, I see regenerative farmers eaten alive.
Despite their conviction and belief and hard work, the farm fails to make money. But let us be clear: it isn’t the farm that eats them alive. It is their plan without experience. (Many regenerative farms are extremely successful; and Ecdysis is doing the science to figure out why and how.)
It is really hard to know the circumstances that make change the best option. When is work to breathe life into a dream too much work?
An unexpected truth that my experience has taught me is that the farm is a pure part of the salvation of the human race. When done right, it is life and spirit and family and connection. These elements are not to be discarded as we evolve to be successful.
Today, Blue Dasher Farm and Ecdysis Foundation have both achieved far more than what was imagined. But they look and feel different than what was written on the plan.
Our successes are because we practice resurrection after every failure. But with every change, we keep our soul, blowing on its warm and glowing embers when we need to.
We adapt, think outside of the box, and use the unique tools/opportunities/relationships present in our lives. Instead of having it all figured out in year one, we now take the strategy of getting a little better every year. One or two steps closer to a self-regenerating farm that can contribute to a better world, starting in our own community.
Self-forgiveness of failure is too rare. Especially when your world is watching.
Despite our achievements, our solutions aren’t usually as fast or as good as those around us tell us they should be. Those that haven’t lived in our world. Those that look at all of the ways that we are different to excuse complacency. But I have to admit, even after all we have done and built, sometimes I still feel like a fraud. I doubt that I deserve what I have.
We are at a pivotal time in human history. Our children and grandchildren will look back at what happens in the next 10 years. There will be heroes to talk about. But often times, tomorrow’s heroes are today’s imposters.
Dr. Jonathan Lundgren Executive Director Ecdysis Foundation Owner of Blue Dasher Farm