This is a slightly edited version of a post first published February 22, 2016 at plumvillage.org.
As we enter the first days of spring here in Plum Village in south-west France, we’d like to share with you the story of a small project called The Happy Farm.
This small organic vegetable farm, which has only been in existence for three years, grew some €33,000 of fresh organic produce for the monastic and lay community this last season. In addition to producing food, Happy Farm offers a year-long training program in mindful organic agriculture and diverse community living. It also offers retreats on mindfulness and sustainability, and provides tours and educational activities for kids and adults throughout the year.
This story is our reflection on how climate, our food, our community, and our personal healing are all inextricably linked. It is our story of love’s impact on the balance and survival of the whole.
With industrial food production making up a significant share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we believe that small-scale organic farming can be an important answer to climate change, as it promotes soil health and carbon sequestration and generally uses fewer energy-intensive inputs (such as fuel and synthetic fertilizers).
But a deeper story is unfolding at the Happy Farm — a story about people falling back in love with each other and with Mother Earth. As people of all walks of life come together and joyfully sink their hands back into the soil — some of them for the first time in many years — they experience a nourishing, heartfelt connection with their brothers and sisters, deepen their understanding of the entire web of life and offer their true presence to Mother Earth. Working the soil in this manner is a bit like caressing the earth and being caressed by her in return.
During their mindful work on the Happy Farm, the interns, volunteers and children are held tenderly by Mother Earth just as they are with all their joys and pains. Without discrimination, Mother Earth welcomes us back, perhaps wondering what took us so long. And so we experience a renewed love for Mother Earth, a renewed connection. We can now experience that the earth is not something outside of us but that she is in us and that we are a part of her. This is not a transformation of the head, but of the heart. It takes root slowly, almost without notice, unfailingly.
Having a renewed love relationship with Mother Earth, we can now see more easily that our energy-intensive life-style and our high levels of consumption are not producing lasting happiness but do great harm by contributing to GHG emissions and other problems. We gradually let go of our habit to consume and begin to experience a deeper nourishment that comes from communion with Mother Earth and experiencing our community of brothers and sisters and all beings. We begin to feel less lonely and a deep appreciation arises for simply being alive. We are hopeful that a new generation of small-scale farmers — many of whom are growing food in cities — will be inspired to turn their work into a mindfulness practice, to turn their farms into places where the harvest is not limited to food but includes spiritual transformation and healing as well, where entire communities can begin to rekindle their love and understanding for Mother Earth not as a separate entity but as a part of ourselves.