By Meagan Couto
I believe that culture comes from agriculture. When we talk about having culture we usually bring up food. Many of us have had Grandma’s cooking, packed with recipes few of us have mastered enough to continue on. It’s become more apparent to me that although our grandparents were part of the agricultural movement, the next generation may not have been set up to live outside of an urban culture. Rather they have became surrounded by the fast food industries more and more.
My parents were born in the Açores, islands of Portugal and many sailed their way to Massachusetts to work as fishermen, farmers, architects, nurses, teachers, etc. I had the luxury as a first generation Portuguese-American to live in a small town called Dartmouth with a multi-generational family who knew the importance of saving a buck by growing food. My parents worked in a self-sufficient way, together always, in order to keep their children fed. Only being able to afford a one dollar toy for each kid, my siblings and I were pushed out the door to be entertained by Nature. They knew that there was a Portuguese Grandmother on every block ready to let us in and feed us a snack. We’d return home when the street lights came on.
With an idea to create a more convenient life, my parents moved our family to Bakersfield. Here we gained weight. My father had a heart attack and I developed asthma. Here, I lost touch with the Earth and felt the concrete and blistering heat. Here, I lost my culture.
Broadfork Acres, a sustainable small family farm in Bakersfield, California is currently in development, created by myself, husband, brother, in-laws, and an 80-year old Grandfather. The more we work the land, the more children stop by to witness the evolution as they jump off the school bus. Neighbors stride by on horses to get their mail, asking us what we are doing. There’s an ancient memory within us all that sparks and allows us to remember our culture when when we see a team putting their hands in the soil, sweating, and laughing while in action. At first we scratch our heads, but then we relearn what bringing a community back together through food feels like.
We farm because within our circle of life we cover all grounds. We are fed well. We are socializing. We are exercising. We are fulfilling a purpose. We are spiritual. We are bringing back to life the old memories of our ancestors. Our community is healthier and happier because our food is not exported, it stays right here in town. We farm because one day we will be the Grandparents letting children at play taste fresh food from the land. But most of all, we farm because we are bringing back culture, and sustainable agriculture is within every culture.
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