[Originally published on Energy Bulletin, September 2012]
This Spring my farming partners and I found ourselves landless. For the past eight years, we had been actively exploring a variety of forms and practices of small-scale agriculture and restoration, including bicycle-based urban farming, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), plant-breeding and seed-saving, staple crops (grains, legumes and oilseeds) and the cultivation and processing of medicinal herbs (no, not pot). Last year I wrote an article, “Who Will Feed The People?”, discussing the challenges to small-scale agriculture in the United States, such as lack of equipment, knowledge, financial resources, and markets; the polluted wasteland left behind by conventional farming; increasingly volatile and unpredictable weather patterns brought by Climate Change; and, last but not least, the social barriers: people of the U.S. are by and large uninterested in significant changes to the socio-economic status quo, and resist cutting edge projects. It was the social factor — which can and did embody a profound hostility to Truth — that brought down our own farming efforts, at least for now.
With sadness and anger, we put our tools and seeds in storage, found foster homes for our perennial medicinals, and raised traveling cash by selling our home (a school bus) and an old but reliable Volvo. After tearfully parting with our beloved farm cat, two of us hit the road in an old pickup to see what we could see.
This journey took us to Eastern Oregon to seek out Finisia Medrano, a.k.a. “Tranny Granny”, a Shoshone elder who knows the ways of “The Hoop”, an ancient tradition of food gathering and cultivation that sustained the Native Americans and the land in good health for thousands of years until being violently disrupted by the European Invasion. The Hoop is not dead but, as we were to see, is severely threatened.