You can’t learn to farm from a book. Well, at least not the vast majority of farming. Perhaps that is true of anything, I’m not sure. An Amazon search for farming will turn up over 31,400 books, but where does all of that information fit into the big picture? Perhaps this issue isn’t really worth examining further; theory + practice are both necessary components of beginning to understand a concept thoroughly. From my personal experience though, I think I’ve spent a long time thinking that books could provide all the answers, lead me where I needed to be led, and outline the perfect career path. Before actually “doing” much of anything I thought I knew (or at least had a general idea) of what I wanted to do with my life, but then once I started to get some real life experience everything was thrown up in the air. From the farming side of things, a farmer I know, when just starting out several years ago and working on a farm for the first time was told to go read some books as a means to quell her inquiring mind. Perhaps I’m not spelling out the experience in the exact way it happened, my point is merely that you really need to learn how to do this by just doing it. Books play a crucial role, don’t get me wrong, but they simply can’t trump experience.
For example, a book can’t…
demonstrate the proper way to release a cut tomato stem from its fruit without bruising
validate the destruction that hundreds of squash bugs can wreck on a row of squash plants over a few weeks time
or give you the satisfaction of squishing a whole family inside of the very leaf they were attempting to destroy!
seduce the senses,
drowning in the buzz of bees, prick of a thorn, the calming allure of lavender
get under your fingernails without ever intending to leave
cover you in soil, pollen, grass, sweat, stench
break your back or build your biceps
take you back to childhood and allow you play in the dirt again
give you a palm to elbow arm rash from the constant rub of tomato leaves tangled around you during harvest
feed you a beyond organic, locally grown, freshly picked lunch on the farm
grow and fruit and flower before your eyes
surround you entirely in a corn field that grows inches everyday
draw blood (because you just had to harvest that perfect tomato that refused to be easily plucked from the vine)
thoroughly exhaust your body
or nourish your soul
A book can’t teach you how to farm.