Why farmpunk?

A farmpunk could be described as a neo-agrarian who approaches [agri]culture, community development and/or design with an anarchistic hacker ethos. "Cyber-agrarian" could supplant neo-agrarian, indicating a back-to-the-land perspective that stands apart from past movements because it is heavily informed by conceptual integration in a post-industrial information society (thus "forward to the land" perhaps?) The art and science of modern ecological design—and ultimately, adapting to post-collapse contexts—will be best achieved through the combined arts of cybermancy and geomancy; an embrace of myth and ritual as eco-technologies. In other words: the old ways of bushcraft and woodlore can be combined with modern technoscience (merely another form of lore) in open and decentralized ways that go beyond pure anarcho-primitivism. This blog is an example of just that. Throughout, natural ecologies must be seen as the original cybernetic systems.

**What we call for at the farmpunk headquarters**
°Freedom of information
°Ground-up action + top-down perspectives
°Local agricultural systems (adhering to permaculture/biodynamic principles) as the nuclei of economies
°Bioregional autonomy
°Computers are optional but can be used for good—see peer to peer tech, social media for direct popular management of natural or political disasters (e.g. Arab Spring), or the mission of the hacker collective Anonymous

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Farm is a Verb...and a Vertex

This is a silly version of my current letter-of-intent:

It has become increasingly evident to me that farming to provide your local community with food, fiber, fuel or some combination thereof is at this point a revolutionary act. On a more personal level, farming also seems to present a continuous application opportunity for many strands of organic knowledge, and a place to reconcile systems of knowledge that have become reductionist and removed elsewhere. To me, the farm integrated with its community is an energy and nutrition delivery system - a catchment system for sunlight - it is to its surrounding environments what a tree is to a forest. In retrospect, it seems like my interest in human nutrition - both physical and spiritual - is what has drawn me to the agrarian awareness that I find myself experiencing. I'm finishing my undergraduate education with a major concentration in Religion - although I think nowadays that if I'd known it was a possibility, I would have certainly chosen "Human Ecology" as a broader, more open-ended option for exploring the questions that I've had. Nevertheless, it has been fascinating for me to learn about the multitude of ways that human societies have created systems for spiritual nutrition - a kind that has remained completely un-quantifiable in the face of other measures of wellness. Among people who incorporate animism or shamanism into their world-view there has seemed to be retained an understanding of deep ecological principles that simply do not survive in many of the perspectives that dominate post-industrial society. So in my imagination, a small diversified farm is a project in modern shamanism - it is a community organ situated in the various spaces between civilization and nature. It is like connective tissue between these two realms - revealing that they are not really separate after all. It is, consequently, a translating mechanism; where a complement of Nature's animate forces - light, water, wind, plant and animal consciousness - are turned into nutrition for people. Lest we think this circuit only conducts energy in one direction, the farm is also simultaneously a means of returning nutrition back to Nature. A farm then should be designed to accommodate earth's natural energy cycles for the co-benefiting of the land and its people. Right now we all face a host of systems that need to be remediated, and - in some cases possibly re-invented. Healed, is the operative verb - and as far as healing methods go, it seems like nourishment is tried and true. This type of healing is primarily prevention - it is building immunity and strength from the ground up, and investing in the fundamental health of systems, as opposed to continually "fixing" broken components of unhealthy systems.

Indeed, there is a need for "speakers" on behalf of Nature, in service of both the community and the surrounding landscape, who work to sense whether there is equilibrium between the two systems - this is the old role of the medicine man! And the more I think about it, the more it seems like there is no one closer to this role than the ecologically-minded farmer. To be sure, it would be overkill to call on every person to fill this role - the applications of the human mind are far too infinite for that. We need other kinds of translators, too!

My proposal is that perhaps, with a scant 2% of our own population "farming", we simply need more translators in this particular space: the space between sunlight and food. Farmside projects like community-supported agriculture, herdshares, community gardening, and educational programs seem to be the lifeblood of the whole idea of civic agriculture. A farm engaging in these sorts of projects can be experienced by people as an integral institution in human settlements, along with courthouses, libraries, schools, churches... It is in the same category as these things, truly. To put it on the community map and make it a place where social action takes place - even if that action is simply a CSA member coming to pick up some veggies - is to take a step in showing people just how intrinsically valuable the farm is!

Oh, I could wax on about the Farm Vision quite happily, but an important thing to address here is: What is my role in that space? What has it been and what will it be?
My role so far has been: to learn, to find my own way of translating - which is in part through writing - and to share my experience and perspective, and let myself be lead by this exchange. It has also been to learn to work with animals (the ones with hooves, especially!) which for me has implicitly been to attempt to understand their consciousness, physiology, our co-evolution with them, and thus their (incredible!) ecological value. It has also been to learn about old ways of food preservation and alchemy - of dairy products in particular - in both history and practice. It has been to learn about grass, and trees, and to come to see pastures and forests as our true masters. It has been, as of late, to think about informed ecological design as an operating system for all these programs and components. And finally, it has been to reach the doorstep of human consciousness, and to realize what Bucky Fuller suggests - that these minds we have may represent one of the most powerful organizational forces in the known universe. When I realize that our hands and our language are - by proxy - our mind, it seems that this mind has evolved with two strong desires: to build things and to share information. The choice then, that we have as individuals, is: A) what to build and B) what information to prioritize. Running this program in my head has returned many answers, many of which change over time. There remains one common answer - and it's something like "farm" and "farming"!

Thanks to my wonderful roommate for lending me The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. His work has been hugely influential and edifying. You can find lots of cool environmental & human health related news at my roommate Melissa's blog Paradoxes of Whole Living.
Also see Critical Path by Buckminster Fuller, it's the closest thing to his brain in a book.

hack on, eco-punks.

~the faunprince.

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