Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Questions, questions.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from a man in north central Pennsylvania who was interested in purchasing a broadfork. He said that he and his girlfriend had recently moved to some rural land and that they wanted to garden and would go into a small production situation. We talked for a while about the broadfork and he told me that the broadfork would be the largest expense so far for the garden, and that he would have to consider it. I had a feeling I'd hear from him again. 

Last weekend his order showed up in my email along with a note reminding me of our previous phone conversation. He ended his note with this: 

"This is our single biggest cost investment thus far, but we decided to go for it because it seems like it'll last a lifetime at least. We look forward to using your fork this season and passing it on to future generations."


Given the state of things in the world these days, sometimes I feel like asking someone to send their money to me is like taking food out of their hands... No, wait a minute... its like putting food into their hands! 

Something occurred to me after I got that note. Each time the broadfork is used, it's cost per use goes down. There are no yearly tune ups, no broken springs or cables, no flat tires, and no gas tank. 

You buy it once, you pay for it once. Your pocketbook wins, your soil wins. 

After I had that realization, I wanted to know a little more about this customer that had only been a voice on the phone and an email correspondent. I had this short list of simple questions I sent to my him after I got his note:

What inspired you to want to produce food?
How much experience have you had with gardening before you went 'pro'?
What will you be planting?
Will you be selling roadside, at a local market, or to friends, etc?
If you have time and would like to share that info, I'd love to share it with people out there that need inspiration.

I got his answers and his permission to post them. I hope these words mean as much to you as they did to me:
What inspired you to want to produce food?

A:  My girlfriend and I were living and working in New York City for a few years after college, and doing 'well.' It took a while for it to dawn on us that, despite our successes, we were actually becoming increasingly disempowered. We had less time to ourselves and we were reliant on a vast series of bureaucracies for our most basic needs, including, but not limited to, our housing and food. Meanwhile, we'd been spending summers out on a piece of land in North Central PA owned by my family -- a farm that burned down in the 60s and has since been owned by weekenders. We were living outside, fixing things up, and building a little house. When summer was over, we'd go back to 'real' life. It occurred to us that we could switch the whole thing around and make our time here our real life.
Food production, especially, is meaningful to us. It's the most basic human activity, and we know nothing about it. In our ignorance, we've let huge corporations set the terms for the quality and price of what goes in our bodies, and the way our food is grown. For us to grow and preserve our own food is the single most important part of taking control of, and responsibility for, our own sustenance.
How much experience have you had with gardening before you went 'pro'?
A:  We have almost no experience. I've worked at a plant nursery, and grew up with a very small garden in the backyard. We spend a couple months working on two farms in Argentina. We've got very helpful and supportive neighbors.
What will you be planting?

A:  We're doing a little of a lot, in terms of vegetables and herbs, about half an acre altogether, although a bit more counting experiments with various grains. Everything that we like to eat, and extra of things we think other people will want. It will take a few years before we have fruits.
Will you be selling roadside, at a local market, or to friends, etc?
A:  We'll be selling at a stand in a nearby town, and possibly at a couple farmers' markets. We also bring our stuff into New York, where our chef friend makes incredible, gourmet meals and we explain where the food was from and how it was grown. 
Hope this helps. Looking forward to the fork!

I hope I don't wear my readers out by repeating this over and over, but you folks are wonderful and an inspiration to me. Thanks to you all.



  1. Hey Gulland,

    Stopped by to read your latest posts. This is a GREAT story, on both ends. My own realization shortly out of college was similar... what is all this work really for? Qui bono?

    I have my modest urban garden in progress. I am hoping to expand to a larger site next year. If so, I will definitely be purchasing one of your lifetime artisan broadforks.

    Best, Gregg

    p.s. some really cool things are in the works by the folks over at open source ecology... a working lab for a relocalized, sustainable economy. Design, building, mfg, ag, and more:

  2. Hi Gregg,

    I loved this story too, and asked my customer permission to print it. Just today I read an article about how more people are not going to college and instead are beginning to go back to working with their hands.

    Thanks for the link. I see a lot more people doing very positive, forward thinking things now. This is a very exciting time to be alive!