2015 New Farmer's Almanac by The Greenhorns


About the New Farmers Almanac 2015

THEME: Agrarian Technology

This Almanac is our second one, but still New. The first wrinkles have arrived from squinting and grinning, but we're still young! This issue's theme is Agrarian Technology, and holds a civil, lived testimony from people whose work, lifeworld and behaviour patterns beamingly contradict normative values of the macro economy called America.

Agriculture is in principle a pre-requisite for what we now call civilization, seems to have become a portal for deliberate, cultural and joyous retort against it. Historians cite very few agricultural societies that managed without servitude and hierarchy--necessary in order to maintain the irrigation,water-works and infrastructures. Exceptions in commons-based land governance abound in the literature, if not in the prime ecosystems of human habitation. The conical land-sharing of the Hawaiian aina, the 10,000 year corn culture of the Abenaki, the perrenial water gardens, and spiritual algorythms of paisley-shaped rice paddies. Dominate agriculture, we know very well, is a monocultue. Much of our built environment in America agriculture, the barns, corrals, ponds and levys was created to support the mixed family agriculture of the frontier and near-frontier-- still an export economy, if gentler than the lazers and biotech we have now. Lest we romantacize those charming barns, lets remember that these older forms drew from and degraded the commons.

For 60 years, the largest American export was cotton: grown by stolen Africans on stolen indigenous land, and fed to steam-powered factories in the sinking brick Empire of not-yet-unionized workers, many displaced from their own farms by the overproduction of exploited colonies. Yes, Agriculture built America, paid for the Railroads and industrial revolution--but it was enclosure, dispossession, exploitation that made it possible. James Scott, one of my favorite curmudgeons ( and editor of American Georgic’s, the syllabus for the last Almanac) has put out another volume addressing some of the ‘ format for freedom’ questions that Thomas Paine has gotten me thinking about:

“The question I want to pose is this: Are the authoritarian and hierarchical characteristics of most contemporary life-world institutions- the family, the school, the factory, the office, the worksite--such that they produce a mild form of instituional neurosis? At one end of an institutional continuum one can place the total institutions that routinely destroy the autonomy and initiative of their subjects. At the other end of this continuum lies, perhaps, some ideal version of Jeffersonian democracy composed of independant, self-reliant, self-respecting, landowning farmers, managers of their own small enterprises, answerable to themselves, free of debt, and more generally with no institutional reason for servility of deference. Such free standing farmers, Jefferson thought, were the bases of a vigorous and independent public sphere where citizens could speak their mind without fear or favor. Somewhere in between these two poles likes the contemporary situation of most citizens of Western democracies: a relatively open public sphere but a quotidian institutional experience that is largely at cross purposes with the implicit assumptions behind this public sphere and encouraging and often rewarding caution, deference, servility, and conformity. ...do the the cumulative effects of life within the patriarchal family, the state ( GMAIL) and other hierarchical institutions produce a more passive subject who lacks the spontaneous capacity for mutuality so praised by both anarchist and liberal democratic theorists?

If it does, then an urgent task of public policy is to foster institutions that expand the independence, autonomy, and capacities of the citizenry. How is it possible to adjust the institutional lifeworld of citizens so that it is more in keeping with the capacity for democratic citizenship?”

(James Scott,Two Cheers for Anarchy, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2012 page 79-80)

Modernity has tended to look down and backwards at it, in alternating moments has romanticized and de-politicized, or romanticized and re-polititicized. The former usually from the top down and the latter from the bottom up. We are, after all, about the 6th ' back to the land' movement in this country's short history. Restoration agriculture, not usually my heading of choise, but good and clear to distinquish ourselves from other moments, presents a retrofit-framework, a powerful alliance with ecology, that allows us enough just autonomy, and productio, to afford rebuilding with a different priority. I guess that would have to be the base-layer of the “ new economy” we hear some much about no a-days. Seems like the litmus test of “approriate technology”, when it comes to mashines and in the algorythms of equity-sharing, has something to do with a truce-between the generations.

If you click around too much, its easy to fall into a distracted frenzy. Today's techno-innovation-design cult (JFK/SFO) tend to hyperbolize their fantasies as vertical-glass-walled utopian green-house free-wifi workspaces, or foist the the hyper-precision 'culture of big data' that pumps out a grid of predictable lettuce greens. Disruptive " Save the world TED" bad-boys have created artificial boomtowns, where synthetic meat vats warmed by blinking servers are hovered over by drones of loving grace. Part Brave New World, part pollyanna, if you tune into the media channels too much its hard to keep your lunch. In highly abstracted high-rise condos, on expensive smelly gloss paper, these implausible scenarios, rendered with photoshop, are offered as a fashionista's parsley garnish--" modern farmer", " virtual grange", "sharecropping 2.0", Hashtag #agfundernews . Mirrored hallways of social media ring with rhetoric to " embrace the Anthropocene", "if we're going to be Gods, lets get good at it". Pinched between Gates Foundation, national geographic and Steward Brand, and " We must feed the World” merges with "The world must feed us” Yikes, its an aqua-culture mafia land grab,an unconscious techno-feudalist, by Venture Capitalists for Venture Capitalists fantasia. But with good design and nice outdoor dinners. Slow Food for 1%, and server-farm-incubated synthetic meat soylent green for everyone else. At least they don’t have Ebola.

You see how easy it is to fall down the dark hole of negativism, this is of course the reason we need an Almanac, to keep ourselves bound up in a fraternity of commitment. A positive outcome all our concerted creative logistics for reasonable change. Greenhorns are dedicated to the project of holding space for producer (not consumer) culture-- this volume is the sequel to our commitment in this direction. Manic, fruit-fly narratives of pop press give us little traction, I would argue that the Almanac format ( dozens of contributors, thoughtfully compiled) are a far better context for literary discourse that can support our landscape-authorship, direct action and practical stewardship of our neighborhood ecosystems.

"Manage for what you want" says Alan Savory, the ex-mercenary game-park warden from Rhodesia, his concept of Holistic Management has been a powerful decision-making framework for many ranchers and land-managers, working to optimize conditions of land-health, business-viability, and human happiness. Its a vector-approach to shifting the system,very rational. Its probably more effective than the UN-mandated response to climate change, but

Shakespeare had a more mythological concept map for the poison, and its antidote.

Sweet are the uses of adversity;

Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.

Could it be that we are the precious, shameless, romantic, pragmatic, apocalyptic optimistic jewels perched on the head of adversity? Are we enough of a jewels to provoke better balance on a planet pushing its bio-physical limits? Essays in this volume shoot out like spider-webs across the wide chasm of impossibility... the glorious rescue mission whose daily requirements keep us human, hopeful and operating inside the scale of possibility.

What future can we realistically build together, will it need electricity? Will it need globalization? Will it continue to require the power of history on our side of exploitation? These practices we’ve found: biodynamics, permaculture, resilience breeding, state-change in the soil, reformats of ownership, reclaiming the value-chain, re-tooling for diversity, committing to lifetimes of partnership… How long before the allow us to reach steady-state? Do they require interns? Do they require servants making silicon chips? Do they require, absolutely require, the internet? Which technologies are relevant to, appropriate to, and gestating within the new agrarian mind? Through the threshold of our email-box, and into the pages of this volume, some answers have come to this question.


In this volume you will find answers to practical questions about Institutional forms, and future-making:


Restoration Agro-forestry, Connor Stedman

Fukuoka weeding, Steve Sprinkel

Breeding for Resilience, Eli Rogosa

Contemporary Catholic Workers Movement, Joseph Wolyniak

Farmers Science Fiction, Tess Brown-Lavoie

Fair Farming, Jon Magee

Sourdough, Aimee Good

Farm Terraces, Sonja Swift

Breaking the law with Ayahuasca, Church, Katherine Millonzi

Island Ethics, Kate Hannigan

Reclaiming High Desert Urban Farmland, Toni Ortega

A perennial prairie, Megan Connolly

How nettles make me feel, Patrick Kiley

Reflecting on Black Farmers in America, 1865-2000, Jean Willoughby + Sam Hyson

Carob Dreams, Adam Huggins

North towards Freedom, Marada Cook

Backwash Fermentation, Natsuko Uchino

Cheap Healthcare, Audrey Berman+ Rose Karabush

VT Grassroots GMO Campaign, Bill Duesing

Pirate Radio Utopia, Pete Tridish

Farming while Pregnant, Janna Berger

Basics of Wildlife Rescue, Megan Prelinger

Bird’s Foot Trefoil: The Poor Man's Alfalfa, Anita Deming

Starting a Co-op, C.R. Lawn

Performing the orientation, Rob Freeman

Worksonging, Max Godfrey

Pickup truck maintenance, Heidi Herman

Staying radical, Savitri D

Land reform, Leo Tolstoy

How can we understand the simple shapes of transition in small business context. Alanna Rose

What are fraternal orders, and this whole swath of the Victorian tax code? Caroline Woolard

What is a fraternal order and how do Granges work? Jen Griffith

* and quite a few more….

About the Audio

We are pleased to present this open-source playlist for agrarians (also available on cassette tape).

We'd like to acknowledge the volunteership of Brendan McMullen who recorded work songs at Shelter Island and at Clearwater Festival by Creek Iverson and Bennet Konesni, Edith Gawler, and the tribe of singers there. Bennett has created a great 'digital songbook' as well.

Work songs, by Max Godfrey who often takes his WorkSong Workshops on the road. Contact Max for bookings.

Grange Songs by Brian Dewan.

Brian Dewan is a singer, auto-harpist, historian, inventor and performance artist. We are thrilled to have recorded a series of Grange Songs with Brian during a 14 hour blizzard in the Whallonsburg Grange. The next set of songs will be recorded in the Keeseville Grange Hall. For more about the Grange, please visit the Grange Future project.

This Intergalactic agrarian mix-tape, was compiled by Audrey Berman from many wonderful friends on both sides of the Atlantic, this is our first collaboration with the Landworkers Alliance

Submissions Information

Well, we've figured out the literary cycle-pattern for young agrarian publications. For biological reasons, articles and submissions from actual working farmers and ranchers must fall in January and February. So here's your advance notice, get us your articles, images, cartoony snippets, poems and morality plays at almanac@thegreenhorns.net by end of February 2015 if you'd like to be included in the next edition. 2016 Theme is: Politics of Retrofit.