There is a lot of buzz these days in the farm & garden community about self-sufficiency. The idea captured my attention briefly and I became enamored with stories of families who created off-grid homesteads, independent of the industrial food and energy system. The concept sounded fantastic…until we tried it at The Micro Farm Project. Although we managed to produce a very large percentage of our total food needs and multiple home products, our family quickly discovered that total self-sufficiency would be exceedingly difficult to achieve.
Also, it would be lonely. The life of a farmer is solitary enough without the added pressure to produce everything that one needs to live. I am an introvert by nature and I love farming, but I don’t know how I would fare spending ALL my time in food production. I need people. Although I talk to my goats and gardens, they are not very stimulating conversationalists. And folks who are willing to hang out for an hour or two raking goat pens or spreading compost are few and far between.
This raises a dilemma: How can one break ties with the industrial food system (as much as possible) and have a social life? The answer lies in leaving self-sufficiency behind to embrace interdependence. When growers band together, sharing skills, products and resources, two wonderful things occur. First, no one must produce everything they need. One person can grow potatoes, another carrots, and another onions. If a soap maker joins the party, together they can boil a pot of vegetable soup and wash the dishes afterwards. As in the folk tale Stone Soup, when everyone shares just a little of what they have, everyone eats better.
The second wonderful result of embracing interdependence is social. Sharing requires interaction and invites relationship. We are so blessed to have active exchange groups in Phoenix that provide frameworks for growers to share products and knowledge, as well as to help offset costs or earn a profit. Outside of these groups, a great deal of sharing occurs spontaneously, as members form mutually beneficial friendships.
To illustrate, I am sharing a post from Greg Peterson’s website, written by our friend Cricket Aldridge. The post describes how to make apple wine (yum!) More importantly, it conveys the ideal of interdependence in a very beautiful manner.