Problems related to modern living are becoming more visible, and a strong voice is drawing people back to the land, nature, and their core values.
From my experience, those who make the choice to go back to farming, or living closer to the land are a privileged bunch (me included). Normally they don’t particularly need to farm, it's a choice. They’ve worked in the city, or had other careers, and come back to the land, realising the activities that make the feel most connected are those which are in collaboration with nature.
Many solutions are ridiculously simple. We can see what works and what doesn’t, and to create the change we must envision the ecosystem, and the community we would like to create around us. Examples are there, they are happening everywhere, and it is possible!
So let’s do it!?
We should all abandon the city, and make a community in the countryside right?
Don’t pack up yet…
While it is a possibility… being in the city or the suburbs, certainly has its advantages over those who live in a remote area.
Living in a rural area also has its advantages!
Normally on the edges and margins, lays the most interesting diversity ...
Where the population density is greater, you potentially have access to more:
People and communities
Much more Diversity skills and professions
Diversity of age groups
Sometimes more cultural diversity and events
Unappreciated waste streams (compost, restaurant waste, building materials, unwanted furniture or other goods.
In rural areas you also have some advantages:
People and communities are normally still around...
More of a niche market for a community project or business?
Opportunity or access to Abandoned houses and land
Cheaper land for farming, or even free?
I’m going to go through a few different ways you take steps towards living the life you envision, based on my personal experiences (without spending much money!)
The first part of the article is for when you are a "seedling", and the second part of the article is for when you are a "sapling".
What type of tree you become is up to you!
The "seedling" stage
A great way to meet people in your area with similar interests. A source of food, (that’s one less expense to worry about) Community gardens have all types of visitors, when you’re experienced you can help others implement gardens at their place. Or if you have other skills, which I’m sure you do, it’s a way of building community and helping others.
Many organisations that host volunteers have very similar visions and ideals. Once you have the experience, maybe you can suggest to the organisation you volunteer for to make a garden to feed the staff/animals/community. Another great way to get experience, add to your portfolio and feed the community.
A great way to gain experience in growing and well-established projects, if you do this for a longer period of time you’re guaranteed to learn a lot and probably make really nice connections also.
Permaculture Courses, Natural Building, Syntropic Agroforestry courses and other short courses and workshops
These are a good way to meet a great bunch of people, who normally have similar visions and the willingness to collaborate. Those with their hands deep in the soil normally have their hearts in the
Online Forums and Groups including Facebook
The following highly depends on your area:
The only reason I haven’t left Facebook, is the countless groups you can be part of all about natural building, permaculture, organic farming, NGO’s and other community related activities specific to your area. Marketplace is also great for meeting people who sell plants, maybe have small scale nurseries, and perhaps people who enjoy recycling and giving things away.
Connect with Mentors, and people who have running projects!
I have met so many people through word of mouth! Once you connect to a few people who have a project of their own, they know someone else with a similar project. Who buy their sweet potatoes from Sarah, who buys her banana plants from Jim, who buys his compost from Mavis, who buys her organic vegetable seedlings from Leonardo and Maria who had their natural pool made by Carlos and so on.
We're growing into "Saplings"
Sometimes it’s a very organic transition from “seedling to sapling” depending on the opportunities available in your area, other times you will need to be able to adapt, be resilient, and think outside the box. Diversity is key.
Start a nursery
You get to learn a lot while you work, start with the easy varieties to propagate, and don’t start with too many varieties at once. Think about the useful varieties that people want. Maybe you become the “Banana guy” or the “Vetiver Girl”. While selling your plants, you get to meet many people, who are also likely to be looking for help and advice about these plants or their land.
You could even start a market stall, selling seeds, creations and promoting your other passions or professions at the same time.
Sharing or Renting land
From those who already have land or a project, there are countless ideas about how you could make something work for you.
Offer your design/gardening services to friends
If you’re looking to do this as a profession, this can help you quickly build up a portfolio. In a few months or years time you have something to be proud of, you’ll be surprised what you can make in a few days if you and your friends are well organised. I’m sure you’ll also be showered in fruit and veg in the months and years to come!
Find a way to “permaculture” or "syntropify" your previous profession
Sometimes we try to re-invent ourselves too much, maybe it’s easier to stick to what you’ve mastered for years and find a way to mix it together. A carpenter or architect might be a better natural builder, a nurse might be suited to diagnosing plant and soil health problems, while a barber might be better at pruning. Don't get me started on the amazing filmakers and directors out there who are shining light and câmeras onto some of the most important and amazing projects, large and small.
Let’s not limit ourselves though, feel free to step a little out of your comfort zone!
Swap your knowledge for lunch or dinner
This was my favorite one during those COVID days.. you’re low on cash, and your garden is still growing, we still need to find a way to eat! Maybe your money is locked up with your clients, or you spent it all on plants. I’m not talking “5 course meal”. I just mean it’s nice to have dinner with a friend/client, talking about what you love, and going home with a full belly.
Start to transmit your knowledge - Foraging tours, propagation workshops, teaching children, “how to plant a tree”, how to save seeds - the options are absolutely endless.
These are only a few ideas, How did you start to live closer to the land?
Good luck everyone, in your journey to becoming a tree..