Wednesday night I attended a free screening of the movie Grow! at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff. It was sponsored by Slow Money DFW, and afterward there was a small panel of local farmers who answered questions for the audience.
Most of the farmers profiled in the movie were college students or college graduates. Entrepreneurs. One of the things several of them noted as being paramount in their decision to farm was that they didn't work for someone else. They had the ability to make their own decisions and mistakes, and to see the direct fruits of their labor. Making mistakes came up more than once. We used to make mistakes and learn from them, but it doesn't seem to be the case so much anymore. One mistake can derail your career. And that is what's mulling around in my head.
Our culture has changed from one where young workers were apprenticed to a master in a field; trained and supervised from day one until they were competent in their expertise and decision-making. Now our workforce embraces a CYA effort where "new meat" can be used to bolster someone else's career.
When I was a captain in the U.S. Army, there was a mass exodus of company grade officers that was so large they conducted a study at the U.S. Army War College to determine the cause. A comment from the study has stayed with me for years (paraphrased) - "My battalion commander would just as soon toss me under a truck if it would benefit his career." Not the best environment for making mistakes and learning from them. Or for creating leaders that can mentor the generation that follows.
The farmers I have met are old-school types. They help each other. They pool resources. They are not reticent about sharing information, because they want other farmers to succeed. All of them need more customers, and those customers need to be the kind who will come out to the farmers' market even when it's raining. As much as they need us, we need them more. Knowing who grew or raised what ends up on your plate is a lovely thing. It brings the real value of the role of a farmer into focus.
Grow! was uplifting in its message....it gave me hope that the local food movement in north Texas can gain enough traction to expand and provide a sizeable percentage of what our local population consumes. Because it's not just the food we need; we need the people who aren't afraid to make mistakes and learn from them.
The farmer panel at the Texas Theater last night included Kim Martin and Laurie Bostic from Barking Cat Farm, which has acreage in Rockwall and Greenville, Marie Tedei of Eden's Organic Farm in Balch Springs, Wendy Akin from Akin Organic Farm in Terrell, and Matt Hamilton of Genesis Beef and the Local Yocal in McKinney.