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If You Want to Build a Ship // On Encouragement


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If You Want to Build a Ship // On Encouragement

Kim Wilkinson

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
Antoine de Saint Exupery

We watched a documentary series on climate change this past summer. Every Sunday night, once the pigs were fed, garbage runs were done, and guests were in session, three farmers and as many engineers packed into the tiny mezzanine of the office. We crowded around the laptop screen and for an hour got a glimpse of the state of the world and what is yet to come. Drought. Flooding. Rising sea levels. The list went on. It was eye-opening. Fascinating. And deeply concerning.

Without fail, one of the first questions we asked each other went something along the lines of "Okay. So what now?" It's one thing to know about the problem. It's another to know what to do about it. Sometimes we came up dry. Sometimes we acknowledged, like they did in the documentary, that it is very likely that things will need to get much worse before there is sufficient pressure to overcome the magnitude of our greed. Ultimately, it came down to this question "how do you get people to change?"

You teach them to long.

We're big on encouragement. With a name that means "son of encouragement" and a namesake that earned his place in history standing up for a formerly less-than-likeable guy with a less-than-stellar track record, we'd better be. Encouragement takes many shapes. Sometimes used to counteract discouragement, at others perhaps to highlight a strength or accomplishment. But the kind of encouragement that we're really passionate about? It's the one that stirs someone up. That motivates, excites, and drives. That inspires. This is the kind of encouragement we thrive on. And that is how you get people to change.

We will never generate real, sustainable change by merely instructing people. By telling them to collect wood and handing them the plans for a ship. The problem is bigger than that. Most of them are.

Encouragement and stirring up longing are one and the same for us. And this, I think, is why we've taken the approach that we have. One look at our books and it's clear that the farm isn't going to make us millions anytime soon. If the bottom line was actually our bottom line, we'd have a lot of work to do. Thank goodness it's not. Because we're in it for something more. Our real products are the intangibles. Vegetables, meat, soap? Sure, those things are important. But what we're really about is the encouragement. That's why we do this. That's why we spend entire mornings, our most valuable work hours, traipsing through the garden with four-year-olds. It's why we'll seize every opportunity to lean on a shovel and talk to a passerby about companion planting, integrated pest management, or composting. It's why we write. It's why we place so much value on the images that make their way here. Our real bottom line, the one we'll likely never be able to truly quantify, is the deep, visceral passion that we've stirred up. It's the seed that we planted that grew into a longing for something better. It's how we've encouraged and inspired others to care more deeply for the gift of food and the land that it comes from.

We thought you might ask...

That documentary series we watched? It was a good one. You should watch it too. It's called Years of Living Dangerously and you can check it out here. For those of you south of the 49th, it's on Netflix. For the rest of us, you can find it on Amazon.

Want more? The folks behind Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective did a pretty bang-up job creating an inspiring and informative introduction to permaculture and several different innovative projects. Well worth a watch. Find it on Vimeo.

Still want more? Excellent. We would love to talk to you about the ideas we're chewing on, the brilliant minds that are inspiring us, and the mile-high stacks of books that are threatening to topple off of our nightstands. Hit us up in the comment section, on Facebook, or through the contact form. We have a pretty deep longing for that endlessly immense sea we were talking about, and we'd love to share it with you.