Hearing the Call of Farmer: An Apprenticeship with Life and Death

Fall has arrived, and with it comes all the preparation for winter and colder temperatures. The golden hues of fractured light illuminate the beautiful array of colours that mark the occasion, and although the weather has been unseasonably warm, we try our best not to be lulled into that feeling of long lazy days where it feels like these warm winds will never end. The farm is growing as things continue to develop and the project is busier than ever, leaving us some days exhausted and overwhelmed. It hasn’t been easy, leaving our home, family and friends to follow something that was calling to us, something that we had no experience in, something that was asking for everything we had to give. There are days when we wake up and wonder what we are doing here, those days where everything is going wrong, where there are too many things to accomplish and you know that it will be a 16 hour day and it will feel like nothing on the list was even completed. Yet there are also those days where everything is perfect, it all falls into place and you are reminded of why you said yes to such an impossible dream.

I have been reminded of this recently in an interview by Neal Collins in his Regenerative Realestate Podcast who so eloquently asked some very heartfelt questions as to what motivated us to sell all of our possessions, jump in our truck RV in tow and travel across the continent landing on piece of land in the middle of the woods to start from scratch, clearing land, building a small cabin and carving a farm literally out of a forest. It wasn’t a plan, it wasn’t something that we even logically thought through. Yes, we had the leverage from selling our house, however there was something happening on a deeper level that we had been dreaming into. What I heard myself speaking to Neal about was the inner work that really drove the process, and reflecting back on that conversation, I started to become even more curious about what got us here, what and why did I say yes to this, what inside of me was pushing towards this dream.

I have also been inspired by the work that is being so beautifully stepped into by the apprentices that have found themselves here on the farm. One component of the apprenticeship program is to spend meaningful time on the land with intent. What we help guide is solo time which may consist of one to three nights alone on the property in the woods. It is a time for reflection, for asking questions or to confirm a direction or discover new ones. Five years ago this fall, I myself was engaged in this same process, a guided vision fast in the red rock canyons of the American Southwest. It was my third guided fast, however this was the longest and most intense one fasting alone for four days without food and minimal shelter, perched on a small rock ledge, overlooking a canyon carved through red rock for thousands and thousands of years. It is a landscape that I had been drawn to for many years, and I spent the better part of my forties exploring the American Southwest, a place that has shown me many things. My curiosity with hearing the stories that were coming from the land here by the apprentices and those wonderful questions from Neal had me thinking about my fast and diving back into my journal entries. What I found, what I rediscovered, were words that have truly guided me to where I am today, messages and clues about what my Soul was longing for in a process where the logical and often critical mind becomes much quieter.

“I am the farmer of seeds for the future generations”

“The farm will have to be the seed to move the vision forward”

“You may not see the seeds grow, but you can dream them into being”

“Death is a seed for the next life, facilitate death to ensure the success of the next generation.”

“Having a farm and selling food is how you create a community”

“You will have to risk failure if you are to follow this path”

My Solo Site Five Years Ago in the Red Rock Canyons

What has been resonating for myself in all this is how much my previous guided solo time on the land has defined where I am today. These journal entries were clues to what was being asked of me by deeper parts of self. These writings may have been pointing to something direct, speaking to the “farmer” however that is only a delivery system of something much harder to grasp. What was being spoken was more about seeds and apprenticeships, specifically an apprenticeship to death. Farming is more of the vehicle for the teachings.

All this culmination of interest and subsequent confirmation comes at a welcomed time, especially here on the farm where we are just at the very beginning pieces of starting this endeavour, building a holistic apprenticeship program and charting the course of a project that is leading us in such beauty and grace. Confirmation of what is happening helps in light of the challenges, hardships and exhaustion as we try to understand all the pieces that must be woven together for this to work, for it to be what we are dreaming and understanding the realities of manifesting such things. The days are long as we celebrate our successes, learn from our failures and continue to set up for the future seeds that are being planted.

Fall on the farm is also one of death, and the tending to this sacred act is not lost on us in the experience and life of farmer. I grew up hunting and fishing, and was taught from an early age about the responsibilities and honouring of taking the life of another. In order for us to live, another must give up its life for us, whether it be plant or animal flesh. The stark reality of this situation is what connects us to our food. For me, it is an apprenticeship with death. Cruising down grocery store isles with bad elevator music in the background, with pictures of farms and caricatures of animals that we are to consume is the visual of our food systems these days. Missing is what goes into the killing of animals and vegetables for our continued existence. We are disconnected from our food. I have such a new appreciation for the farmer, it takes an incredible amount of work to grow food, more than I ever imagined.

Much gratitude for the support that we have been receiving, much gratitude for the interest in our project and much gratitude for all those that have been finding their way here, learning about themselves and teaching us so much. I truly believe that our connections with wildness, with the wild community, are inroads to learning more about ourselves, and if we listen, if we start that dialogue with these places, our true gifts will be reflected to us. If you would like to hear the interview with Neal and learn more about the story of how all this unfolded, tune into Regenerative Real Estate Podcast. Neal is a gifted interviewer, and his podcast series offers a different perspective in a world that needs new voices and new ideas.

I will leave with a poem, a poem for all the farmers who are busily harvesting, preparing for winter and facilitating death so that we may be nourished, so that our lives may continue.

The tenderness of life and death, the misunderstood life of farming
Our food comes to us, all neatly prepared
Down isles of white flickering lights
We listen to the drones of music that keeps our carts moving with delight
We do not see the death the farmer holds as roosters die in the night
The sacrifice of the hens eggs for our nourishing tasty sensations
The hours spent praying to seeds that they may see the light
Coaxing our ancient agreement to bring food and life
The cities are a veil to such luminous life
Hiding from the death that gives them life
Our introspections on death and life
Taking the life energy that we hold for you the consumer in our way of life
We are the holders of death to continue life
We hold baby chick, goats and rabbits alike
Consume, waste in this dirty cycle of consumeristic life
Hiding from the realities of the food of life
It grows for our convenience at the stores for you and me
The elevator music we deplore yet like
Our hands drip with the blood we farmers hold in special life
Yet our value is not supported where the veils of city life
Protect and hide in the capitalistic race
To an end that if we look is close in sight
What virtues do we hold in this world of technological fright
Who do you employ for your food tonight
The factory machines remove much from sight
Lines at the slaughter day and night
As I sit with the visions and thoughts of the I killing I must employ on the eve of the animals last night
Singing their praise into the other world of unknown mysterious love and light
What prayers I must offer for my soul to remain right
What gifts do I give for the lives I take
In light of the moon, the sun and all that is right
We give and we take in our agreements tonight
We are not the owners the rooster crows in the early morning light
Our ancient agreements have been lost in the world of fastness
Speed of light
Moving to places unknown in our consumeristic delight
What offerings, what gratitude do we give in our daily bread
What hand created for our taste pleasures as we watch TV tonight
What sources, what resources conspired to give you life
In the drone of moving toward the realm of dark city life
Community divided in the polarity of time
Ask, where and who gave me this food tonight

~ Written By William Kosloski, Twisted Roots Farm

Published by Twisted Roots Farm

We are a small off-grid farm located in Cape Breton Nova Scotia.

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