This past weekend, I had a research poster at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in LaCrosse about a pilot project to my dissertation collecting women farmers' stories and art about their lives. I saw a lot of people reading the poster, which made me glad. At the end of the event, I was going to take the project down, and I saw a young man and his friends staring intently at the poster. I made an introduction and asked if they had questions. The young man said, in a somewhat puzzled voice, pointing to the image in the top corner of the poster, "that looks like my farm!" I brushed it off as a coincidence, but I told him the name of the farmer who had painted the image.
"That's my Mom!" he replied.
We had a great conversation, and laughed that he had recognized his land. I spent a lot of time afterwards thinking about the encounter: how a farmer knows her or his land so intimately, the patterns are recognizable out of normal context. How the diary farmer who painted the image captured every stream and field edge, wildland and wetland, pathway and contour, showing her deep sense of her place -- deep enough that her son could recognize that place hundreds of miles from home. As I interview women farmers for my dissertation, an often repeated theme is how they feel inseparable from their farms. It's hard to tell where the land leaves off and the human begins; where the business ends and the community starts. As spring slides inexorably closer, I can feel little stirrings in the land. With the slightly warmer weather, the chickens are running around their coop with more energy (though they haven't braved the snow-covered field outside their open door); I go for a run myself down my country road. Somewhere under all those drifts, are the contours of my own farm. My hands work through the soil in my greenhouse, feeling the promise of summer in the tiny, hard seeds I plant, patterns of surprise waiting to unfurl in the world.
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.