This land is marginal for growing and somewhat less marginal for raising a few stock animals. A gardener/farmer can be somewhat more productive in the short run by employing chemical tactics. A very mindful intensive gardener/farmer or rancher may be able to grow food and raise animals for more than one family with ecological principles if they have plenty of land and animal wisdom. In the entire high desert, I know of one such farm/ranch that is certified and verified organic, no corn, no soy, no wheat, no GMOs, heritage breeds only, all beef grass-fed and grass-finished, poultry pastured free-range, and no antibiotics, no steroids. Their animals are ethically raised chicken, game birds, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, rabbit and beef. They have a thriving CSA. They support their local community. They work 24/7 which is something many non-farmers do not realize when they become impatient for “just one more dozen eggs, please.”
The owner-operator is a friend of mine and truly do not understand how she does it. What she does is nothing short of amazing.
I’ve posted plenty about how to grow on this semi-arid marginal land, but I have no cash crops. I cannot give up my teaching job and farm full time. Maybe I’m not opening myself up to the whole array of possibilities here, I’m willing to admit that. I still have kids at home and under 18. I am a single mother. This plays into it. I do take chances (I’m out here in the Mojave Desert, alone, with a part time job and a small educational and research farm, for one), but leaving my current job just to farm or even just to run the learning center is not one of those chances. Even so, the prospect of raising some food for my family and maybe a few friends keeps me going.
People come to and support Rainshadow’s farm day workshop events. They want to see change and they want to be change. When we’ve talked I’ve discovered they feel connected to the land and to one another through the farm day. Friendships have grown. A certain sense of community has arisen. I know I personally derive a sense of well-being from the land. And from those who are on the land with me, all the time and part of the time. If nothing else has been learned from the years Rainshadow has been running the workshops, this is worth all the effort. This idea that we are in the land and it is in us. We are connected to this land and may discover connection to the land, its inhabitants, and one another here. Some of the farm day people have gone and taken gardening skills to their own homes and created wonderful gardens. When they show me their photos, I’m in awe. The ripple effect of people raising their own food, even just a bit of it, is necessary for any transformation toward sustainable food systems.