Farming metaphors guide my creative mind
Each spring, there’s a practice in growing stone fruit called “thinning.” Long before any palette of orange, yellow, gold, or red has swept across the cheeks of our peaches or nectarines, we must knock many of the tiny hard green fruit to the ground. A team of workers climbs ladders to gently twist about 70% (in a typical year) of the green fruit off the branch using their hands. It is delicate work and takes time. This is what it sounds like as the tiny green fruit ping against the aluminum ladders and fall back to the earth. This practice ensures that the fruit that remains on the branch grows fully, becomes luscious, and swells with sweet juice.
As I have been learning to farm organically, I have observed incredible wisdom from the land and the trees, and the way my father (a third generation farmer) works to enhance and accommodate as much life on the farm as possible. Many of the practices lend powerful metaphors to my artistic, creative, and community work too.
I have realized that as an independent creative person living and growing rurally, when I can “thin” some of my ambitions to focus on a project, just like the peaches and nectarines, I work better and I grow better.
The labor of “thinning” my creative ideas is difficult to do in solitude. We need many hands to grow valuable things. I realize my creative work thrives with focus, structure, and colleagues. After meaningful encouragement from a friend and colleague in rural arts, Rachel Reynolds Luster (fellow 2014), I applied to the Creative Community Fellows program excited about the possibilities to learn with support and structure to focus on a creative community project. I am delighted, ecstatic, and grateful to be part of the Creative Community Fellows program. I am particularly excited to experience an online learning community (as this is a first I've ever participated in and as a really important tool that can help me stay connected without leaving the rural place I love).
I anticipate that this cohort learning experience will give me a structure, a network, and a group of inspiring fellows (which it already has) with whom and through which to focus my energies on a project that’s been hanging in my dreams for a while. I come eager to move through the seasons of creating, from the seed of an idea and creative impulse, through germination and the clarity of thinning, to seeking resources, and summoning sunshine to pass through the unexpected “weather” of creating something.
My Creative Point of Departure
As someone whose work straddles the worlds of art and agriculture, my creative mind has been full of questions surrounding drought. My family’s farm is located in the Central Valley of California where vast stretches of land and many people’s lives are dedicated to growing food. I’m an organic farmer and the fourth generation to touch the soil here. Our current record-breaking drought is affecting many people in our region: wells have run dry, fields have been left fallow, perennial crops have been yanked from the soil, groundwater is being drained.
There’s a wide feeling of uncertainty, and I think sadness. Sustainability and resiliency are core values in our family farm; yet, public discourse about the drought has felt either polarizing or depressing. As more and more media coverage have highlighted various narratives of water with varying degrees of nuance and clarity of the very complex water system(s), I’ve been yearning to use my creative skills and arts-based practices as means of building deeper understanding, empathy across different experiences of the drought and creating space to respond to the drought locally. I turn to my cultural roots that remind me: fall down 7 times, get up 8.
I believe this can be a moment to rise with creativity, community, and innovation. So, I’m using the opportunity and incredible energy of the Creative Community Fellows program to create a project tackling the drought through creativity and community, and I am grateful to be here.