The relentless pursuit of happiness
Speeches are back, baby
A little over a month ago, my phone lit up. It was a buddy of mine, Shawn. He's the kind of guy that makes you smile and immediately answer when you see his name pop on to the screen.
I send most people to voicemail first and see what they want before calling back, so the "answer immediately" group is special. (By the way, if you are a friend of mine reading this and have ever been sent to my voicemail, I do this with everyone else except for you.)
Shawn and I hadn't talked in a while, so we caught up about our spouses, children, and animals before getting to the business of the call. He works for the Colorado Farm Bureau. "Could you come and speak at our conference . . . " he started to ask. "Of course, I love the Farm Bureau," I interrupted, assuming he wanted me to come to give a political briefing. ". . .about living off your farm for a year?" he finished.
I almost fell over with excitement.
Maybe, if you're a reader of this newsletter, you know, or perhaps you don't, but in my "real life," I'm a political analyst, commentator, and communications strategist. I have spoken all over the state and country about politics, media, and the confluence of the two. Writing, urban farming, and even this newsletter are my attempt to escape the Hotel California of politics.
I've spoken at the Colorado Farm Bureau conference before, giving briefings about pending legislation and the political environment. Before the pandemic shut down conferences, giving such speeches to a wide variety of groups was a not-insignificant portion of my income and one of my favorite parts of the job.
What I've never given a speech about, yet, is my little urban farm and the weird challenge I did to live off it for an entire year. So, when Shawn asked me to talk about it, I turned into my own "IT'S HAPPENING!" meme.
Me talking to the Farm Bureau about farming feels a little like being invited to give a speech to a conference of astrophysicists after I built a model rocket one time. However, I hope I'm able to find the middle spot in the Venn diagram with circles for "humble," "entertaining," and "insightful" for this group.
Shortly after an abrupt change in my employment a few months ago, I called one of my close mentors to ask her advice on my next steps. I've written before about her reminder that the pursuit of happiness is just that, a pursuit. There is no destination in the pursuit of happiness, just more pursuit. It's turtles all the way down.
She also pushed me to do the hard work of really distilling precisely what it is that I want to be when I grow up. It's taken a while to figure out how to articulate it. Part of that process has been to look at what other people I admire have done and apply their methods to my own passions. Even if I become "that thing" it will still lead to more pursuit, but at least I need a direction to run.
I’ve come closest to an answer when I said that I would like to be like a mix of Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs fame) and Anthony Bourdain (author and chef) but for agriculture. Both men approached others' lives and livelihoods with curiosity and open minds. They acted as ambassadors for their subjects to the outside world and demystified them while still maintaining reverence.
I think agriculture and those who pursue it are awesome. Never in the course of human history have we had as much material wealth. With that has come the luxury of largely insulating our lives from food production, and it is a luxury. However, it has created a kind of societal disconnect. The fractures are showing and it’s time to bridge the gap.
I love to "farm" and talk and write about farming, not just because I never get sick of making a beautiful cheese, but the creation of the tangible is a constant reminder to me of how insanely fantastic everything is.
It's tough to get mad about someone tweeting something mean to me when I have a fresh bowl of tangy goat fromage blanc offset with the brightness and pop of chilled blueberries. Creating beautiful and tasty things is like an anchor to reality and when whatever is occurring on a screen somewhere attempts to unmoor me.
The Colorado Farm Bureau is comprised of people who know exactly what it is to create the beautiful and the tangible. They are the ones who nourish us - all of us. The average farmer in the US feeds 166 people a year. As someone who barely squeaked out a year feeding myself, that number seems herculean.
I'll continue the relentless pursuit of writing about goats (thank you for your subscription), making cheese, and trying to figure out how to make up a whole new job as a "professional agriculture celebration evangelist." It's exhilarating that speeches are back, baby. I hope they like my model rocket - I'll let you know how it goes.
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As always, I would love to get your feedback - even if you just want to tell me I’m terrible. Just, warn me first because I’ll need to read your comment while holding a bowl of cheese.