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Garden Report:
Common Ground Mini-Farm at Ecology Action Headquarters in Willits, CA
by Eric Buteyn, EAH Mini-Farm Manager

Ecology Action Headquarters

"Garden Manager" is a tricky position to occupy. How can a garden be managed? There are so many variables involved. A garden's growth and health are dependent on so many things that we have no control over. And the gardens or mini-farms of Ecology Action have another unique variable: the interns who work in them!

This past September, the four interns at our main site were each given one week to take on the role of garden manager. I spent time with each "manager" in order to communicate anything pressing that needed to be accomplished, but I urged them to critically view the entire garden from a management perspective, envisioning what, if anything, needed to happen during that week in any of our 100+ garden beds.

So many good things came out of this experience of saying, "What if you were manager?" When the interns were forced to ask themselves that question, their whole perspective changed. Alejo, our intern from Argentina, referred to the normal morning protocol of arriving in the garden and receiving daily instructions as "comfortable". This exercise forced him, and all of us, to think more critically and holistically about how our actions are connected to an intelligent system. I think our collective awareness was raised.

We force ourselves to regularly ask other challenging "what if" questions in order to keep ourselves focused on our mission. What if I was forced to live and grow my own food in less-than-fertile soil? What if phosphorus became too expensive or unavailable? What if I couldn't buy compost from the local garden center? What if we all had only 4,000 square feet of land on which to grow a sustainable diet for one person? And for many people in the world, these what if questions are not hypothetical; they are quite real. What if becomes Okay, now that this is the situation I am in, what do I do? Questions like these have helped to form our unique approach to food-raising.

As I write this in November, we're stuck in a lovely Indian Summer, great for getting all our winter compost crops in, but a little worrying as last year's rainfall was so sporadic and slight.

What if we have another dry winter?
What if global food production slows and population continues to increase?
What if desertification accelerates?

When confronted with questions like these, it is incredibly comforting to be able to sink a spade into the soil, totally engrossed in completing the current task to the best of our ability, knowing that our actions are done with good motivation and with a realistic hope that we are part of the answer to all of these challenging questions.

— Eric Buteyn
EAH Mini-Farm Manager

Whole Garden

The garden at Ecology Action Headquarters in Willits, CA




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