Living in the forest - land
The above article is worth reading, at least the second half. I can see the essays of Wendell Berry lingering in the background. As a small land owner I've been concerned for quite awhile about the "legacy problem". That is, how the land will be utilized once my wife and I pass on. We own a plot of forested land and would like it to remain so. The statistics regarding diminishing "small" land owner ship present a dismal trend for the future. As the article points out:
The rise of agribusiness has meant that there are hardly any farmers left in America's agricultural regions: Just 2 percent of Americans operate farms now, and 42 percent of Midwestern farmers earn less than $20,000 per year. Independent family farmers today live more like sharecroppers...........
A few things to note about the quote - it states 2 percent operate farms. It did not say "own". These "independent" farmers are like the indentured servants of colonial times, i e sharecroppers. The article does not mention the legacy aspect at all, focusing more on economic fusion.
The article does not distinguish between survival of the homesteading way of life and the small town community
. Although intimately connected, the distinction is important in order to understand that homesteading has an even more challenging "attraction" problem than the small town. Many small land owners assume they'll pass on the property to family members without ever communicating enough
with their children to see if the desire for the land is there.
Extracted below is from a 2005 study of forest ownership: Private Forest Landownership in Washington State, conducted by the University of Washington. I recognize it was done before the economic downturn but I haven't been able to find any evidence of a substantial turn around in legacy awareness issues:
Recent findings show that from 1982 to 1997, 10.3 million acres of non-federal forest land converted to non-forest uses, approximately 680,000 acres per year (Alig et al. 2003). It is estimated that close to 44.2 million acres of private forest land in the United States could experience
large increases in development pressures between now and 2030 (Stein et al. 2005). Based on the National Woodland Owner Survey, there are an estimated 10.3 million family forest owners (not including corporations, partnerships, tribes, and other non-family organizations) in the United States, owning 262 million acres; 1.8 million acres of this forest land are expected to convert to development in the near future, with close to half of the loss to development taking place in the West (Butler et al. 2004).
Forests come under greatest threat when ownerships change. Table 5 divides U.S. private forest landownerships into two classes, “large” and “small”. At 5,000 acres or less, the important ownership change is intergenerational transfer. In this category, ownerships are entering the 4th or 5th generation; inheritors are many, are subject to divisiveness, and are driven primarily by financial motives.
What is a key take-away from the above lump of facts is what is implied by the last sentence - that is, there is no mention regarding "connection" with the land. 81% of Americans live in urban areas according to the 2010 census. Some estimates suggest 70% of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2050. People
are moving "away" from the"natural" world at a rapid rate.
Why write about this here, on this site? Well, my observations indicate there is a lot of positive, diverse energy
here. A true counterculture attitude about land use. People express the desire to make fruitful use of land, to practice practical economic efficiency, especially when it comes to food and shelter
. But if it remains true that agrarian and forestry stewardship is shrinking, shouldn't the root
causes be looked at critically and consistently?
A lot of topical paths cross each other on Permies: families seeking community, individuals seeking land, applying permaculture
practices, defining permaculture
, discussing acceptable approaches, landowners declaring the need for help, partnerships or offering to create some kind of land agreement, aging in place, etc. All of this gets blended with topics on money, can one make a (subsistence) living as a permies, techniques and technologies, newbie questions regarding "where to begin"? A rich mix of energy and knowledge streams through this site.
I mentioned Wendell Berry at the beginning of this post. What seems to make him such a passionate essayist and speaker is his love for the land and the importance for true connection with it.
Without these elements as part of one's make-up the homesteading lifestyle will continue to diminish. Just what is love of and connection with the land? I suspect deeper discussion on this site regarding these vital attributes would help the"paths" mentioned in the previous paragraph to come together rather than just cross each other. How does the city
person recognize those elements within one's self? Perhaps the long time "landowners" hold the answer
. The land teaches in unexpected ways. There is the question of values which motivates one's connection with land. Why is land ownership not succeeding in the traditional way of inheritance? A no-fault inability to convey those values to one's children? The "American Way of Life - as "advertised" has a strong magnetic pull world wide. Everyone on Permies knows this. It takes a desire of heart felt energy to "make it with the land", to resist the modern cultural dependency of convenience. What does it take to really know this world as "Mother Earth"?