Published Feb 25, 2011

What a farm has to teach and give

By Teresa Opheim

How do we envision our gardens and farms for the future? What are some of the positive changes we will make to cope with these conditions and improve our land and the environment? Improve our relationship to our families and communities? Mary Swander, State of Iowa Poet Laureate and a PFI member, asked participants at the PFI annual conference workshop to envision their farms and gardens 20 years from now.

Here’s Jan Libbey’s response. She owns One Step at a Time Gardens with her husband, Tim Landgraf.

“Today we are preparing for the open house/community celebration of the second straw bale structure on our farm. This house will be home to a second family who is managing an independent but complementary enterprise. There is a hustle and bustle as tables are set up, flowers are set up in vases; volunteers arrive and find their tasks. You can hear the crunch of gravel under the tires as the first guests arrive. They are really another layer of unrecruited volunteers, asking what they can do to help us.

“The celebration is not only a tour of the structure and stories of how it was built—many of the components coming from the farm itself, but a retelling of construction stories from the construction –lessons learned, skills admired, foibles, etc.

“Our role is fairly complete, having been much of the planning and prep….Today the pieces unfold. I’ve learned finally, over the years, the graceful art of delegating.

“Because I’m not so consumed with the final details, I am afforded time to pause and observe. Quietly, I listen to the growing chorus of voices. It’s September and the prairie is in full bloom. We’re fortunate: the skies are blue, with light clouds floating by. The temperatures are in the low to mid ’80s. It’s warm but tolerable. A light breeze teases the tablecloths. It’s just amazing what this farm has to teach and give. …

“Today it gives this beautiful setting together and the food to savor. More than that, it gives us the platform that grounds the past, the present and the future. While we may not have that dynamic specifically, I can see the energy of relativity that emanates from this land flowing around those gathered. They intuitively come together for the food of the land and the depth we are so fortunate to nurture.”