Not all the crops harvested this fall were grown by me. Today I finished wild rice that I had collected several weeks ago: knocking the rice kernels into the bottom of a canoe while my partner poled the canoe through the tall grass. This was the first time I've been able to parch and winnow my own rice, completing the whole process. It boggles my mind that I can spend a day in a canoe on a lake, and another day hanging out with friends by a wood fire and end up with my year's supply of rice. I would have to spend a great deal more work than that to grow other types of my own grain! Today, wild rice is under threat from a variety of sources: genetic contamination from cultivated wild rice, and water pollution. Even slight increases in sulfur in the water (from industrial processes like mining) will negatively impact the rice beds. Yet another reason -- cultural, economic, and ecological -- to protect the Lake Superior watershed I call home.
I love telling strangers that I am a farmer. It's the quickest way to mess with any number of assumptions people have about the world. First, this is not an occupation that people know anything about despite the fact that EVERYONE depends on agriculture. Second, when I say, "farmer" what gender generally comes to mind? Last week I went to buy lights for my new barn classroom at Menard's. While one of the clerks was sorting through pallets in the back to find my boxes of special order, the other guy searched around for a way to make small talk. We got onto the subject of where I lived. "I have a farm," I said. I could see his brain come to a full stop, probably taking in my leather coat, jewelery, and nicely done hair (I was headed to a date after running errands). "And do you farm for yourself, or farm for a living?" He asked carefully. "For a living," I said, hiding a smile. I could see him reassessing me completely, and trying to mask his world getting turned upside down. We then discussed the weather and the apple year. "I admire farmers," said the clerk, in the tone of someone caught being racist who says, attempting to save face, I admire _those_ people. I told him about my farm in my best business voice until the boxes of lights arrived.
Dr. Clare Hintz has a B.S. Degree in Biology and Writing, a M.S. in Sustainable Systems with an emphasis in Agroecology, and a Ph.D. in Sustainability Education with a focus on Regenerative Agriculture. She currently teaches permaculture design and regenerative agriculture from her production permaculture farm in northern Wisconsin. She is the editor in chief of the Journal of Sustainability Education. In her spare time she knits, reads feminist science fiction and cooks really good food for friends.