Explanation and Apologia

me drawing my daughter drawing me, as drawn by my daughter

I live with my wife, daughter, and stepson in a 1940s stone house near the downtown of a moderately large Southern city. I have an herb garden, some tomatoes, and a few shiitake mushroom logs.

I started this website in 2002, largely to write about my experiences raising a small flock of ducks in my backyard. I believed then that a key (not to say the key) to building a healthy and sustainable agriculture and to building healthy and sustainable communities was people taking an active part, no matter how small, in feeding, clothing, and housing themselves. I still believe that. I no longer have quite the level of youthful enthusiasm I had fifteen years ago, and I can’t apologize for that. When people criticize, say, Thomas Jefferson or Saint Paul for contradicting himself, I can’t help but feel for the guy. If your thinking doesn’t evolve, you’re not thinking.

All that is to say that what you find here may or may not qualify by anyone else’s standard as “agrarian,” and that I likely don’t qualify as agrarian by anyone else’s standard, nor even by my own. Nevertheless, I find I don’t have much to say that can’t somehow be tied back to what I wrote years ago in “What’s a New Agrarian?” I have tremendous respect for individuals and organizations that carry on the work of promoting sustainable agriculture and building healthy food systems. I’m not them. I’m primarily interested in culture, and in the individual actions that make up culture, and in how culture in turn shapes (or prevents) our ability to have a sustainable agriculture and a healthy food system—among very many other things.

Had I to do it over again, I’d pick a less, well, pretentious title for this space: As if it falls to me to redefine a line of thinking that’s carried on for thousands of years! Ah, youth. But I’m afraid I’m stuck with it now. The recent redesign applies, I hope, some hard-won humility.

Were I to write some sort of manifesto now, it might look something like this:

  1. Find beauty and purpose where you are.
  2. Play a part in your subsistence.
  3. Root yourself.
  4. Think small.
  5. Celebrate your embodiedness and your creatednesss.
  6. Love your crooked neighbor with all your crooked heart.

Is that agrarian? I don’t know. I don’t suppose it matters much.

Am I very good at those things? I don’t know. It varies. That matters tremendously, of course, but not to the value of the maxims, which stand regardless of my ability to live up to them.

—David Walbert, 2016