Thursday, December 15, 2011


Love what you do
Participating farms in the lower 48
The blogosphere is humming with questions stirred up by the OWS movement and the Arab Spring -- the Millenials are looking for a way out of a confusing mess, just like we were when our mess was the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggle.
They must feel like they're lost in the woods, full of animal and insect chatter that tells them nothing, and facing a multitude of choices in trails with no idea which ones go anywhere good, or just nowhere.
If one of us were standing there, we'd have to tell the young person that we really had it better, with our productive years ahead supported by great supplies of energy in the industrial world and entire new technical fields opening up, and without the horrifying prospect of 7 billion hungry competitors.  Whether we chose to fly up the ladder of conventional success and collect the prizes of money and possessions beyond any previous generations' hopes, or skim along doing our own thing and still enjoy a pretty good quality of life, we had viable alternatives.
In so many ways, I don't think they do.
They probably have a deep feeling that they're gripped in a vise:  the contracting economy will never provide opportunities for a good living as the population expands, and there's the reality of those huge student loans coming due.  We could scrape by, starting out, because rent was $100 a month and few of us, except those entering lucrative professional careers, owed anything.
Kids, that may be your answer.  What was old is new again.
In the coming decade, less and more expensive energy supplies will put constraints on exporting and importing foodstuffs all over the world.  Local production of food and fuel is creating livelihoods already that corporate monoculture based on revolving bank credit, migrant non-citizen labor and long-distance shipping had seemingly eliminated.
If it's felonious to suggest ignoring that student debt as a deal gone bad, then I guess I can't...
But say you're starting out at zero, with no obligations and few possessions (and that's a good thing) and have a little cash scraped up from overtime at Starbucks or from family -- there is an opportunity to go off the radar, learn valuable new skills and be ready to grow in a new simpler economy instead of suffering from the train wreck of the old one.
A nonprofit called Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) pairs up volunteers (you) and one of 1300 participating agricultural enterprises all over, including Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (see map above).  There are even several near here, at Duncannon, Gettysburg, Columbia and Pine Grove, and one can learn about animal husbandry, crops, wine or honey production.  The deal is simple:  you work for 1/2 day for six days a week, and the host provides food and accomodation (although some of that is just your tent), but most importantly, skills you don't have to buy your own property to learn.  There's even one in Claremont, CA, that's just a half acre!  I've followed the popular blog from a well-known family which has supported all its members well for years on just such a plot (also in the mild CA climate), so right there is an opportunity to learn how they do it (except they bought the home long ago at a tiny fraction of today's cost).  A woman runs a CSA farm on the Oregon coast and had 50 WWOOF volunteers this summer -- it seems a real financial and social benefit for all (be sure to find her website at with an extensive photo record of this past summer).  But it's just a change, a beginning; people will have to figure out how to use the connections made and skills acquired to develop the specifics of where and how they will make a living.
They might have to forget the formula education=good job=large home and cars.  But education is, I think, about learning how to learn, and that will prove useful from day one.  Tomorrow's engineer may be making biofuel systems with two partners, instead of working for Shell Oil in an office complex, but he or she may be pleased with their place in the world.

1 comment:

  1. When it is all broken down, the Yale graduate being a lawyer for Wall Street can not grow his own food and can not make his own clothes and can not fix his BMW. And some who would wish to get back to the basics can not due to restrictions made by others who live close by. Grow a tree.