Farming is Activism

Life is looking out for us.

Small, seemingly unrelated events lead us to exactly where we need to be, if we are open to their guidance.

The path I am on now began for me with a suggestion from Professor Don Rothman to move into the Village and join PICA.  Once there, I was exposed to other student organizations on campus such as the Student Environmental Center.  While I worked with those enthusiastic activists, staying at PICA helped me realize that how we choose to live our lives is activism. In a country where less than 1% (and the majority of that 1% is over 60 years old) of the population is in agriculture, farming is activism.

I run New Family Farm in Sebastopol, CA with two other PICA alums, Felicja Channing and Adam Davidoff. The values we learned in PICA inspired the structure of our farm (perhaps I should call it an agroecosystem).  We manage about 18 acres in the coastal hills and valleys west of Sebastopol.  Our valley is a seasonal wetland, full of life and dense grass come Spring.

We work with three draft horses – Misty, Quinna (both Belgian mares), and Sparky (a percheron gelding) to do all the fieldwork from plowing to weeding to harvest. Working with horses has fundamentally changed my relationship with the living world.

We grow vegetables on 6 acres (we will be up to 8-10 by next season). We also breed, raise, and milk Alpine/Nubian dairy goats. Additionally, we breed and rotationally graze a heritage breed of pigs called Tamworth.  All of our animals are linked in some way with the crops, either through rotating them through the fields or harvesting their manure for compost.  In this way, our whole farm is a self-renewing family of plants and animals.

Speaking of family, Felicja and I also raise our daughter, Aniela, who is two and a half years. She is the impetus for the name “New Family Farm.” She brings me so much joy.

I feel privileged and honored to be a steward of this land.  I have so much gratitude for the opportunity to live the way I do. I have a lot of responsibility now, and a lot of duties. But this does not daunt me. I have found that when you are exactly where you want to be, duty is the blessing that will keep you there. Looking back, and I write this without any exaggeration, I see PICA as the first step of this journey that I will be on in one form or another for the rest of my life.

Ryan Powers is a former PICA student who, along with two other former PICAns,  runs New Family Farm in Sebastapol, CA.


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