So what's up with the name, Green Fire Farm, you may be asking? The inspiration for naming our farm Green Fire has many facets stemming from ethics, family history, and ideology.
A Land Ethic and Paradigm Shift
Aldo Leopold, the famous Wisconsin conservationist, and founder of the field of Wildlife Management is the overall inspiration for the naming of our ambitious pursuit. I (Jacob) earned a degree
from UW-Stevens Point, one of the nation's top natural resources management and wildlife ecology programs, and was exposed to Leopold's extensive body of work and impact on conservation. In his
renown book, A Sand County Almanac (1949), Leopold recounted his observations and experiences through a year at his shack in central Wisconsin and laid the foundation for a Land Ethic. In many
respects, this book shattered and shifted paradigms for many people.
In the book, Leopold also recalls the shattering of his own paradigm after shooting a wolf as young man working in Arizona:
"We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those
eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’
paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”
- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949
I underwent a similar paradigm shift throughout my university education. If you would have told me in 2010, after my high school graduation, that I would be farming in 5 years time, I would have laughed at how absurd a notion that was. I wanted nothing to do with farming or agriculture. I wanted to protect nature and help endangered species. I went through my education learning about the foundations and new innovations in wildlife management and conservation. Despite not wanting to farm, I consistently thought about how agriculture played a role in management and conservation of our natural resources, and inquired about it. To my surprise, there wasn't much to be covered about this interaction. This was unsettling. How could we be, for the most part, neglecting the management of biodiversity and ecosystem functions on agricultural land, especially given its reign on a large portion of terrestrial Earth. This led me to independent research that resulted in exposure to permaculture and regenerative agriculture, which promised to not only support biodiversity, but enhance it while producing human food! Consider my paradigm shattered.
My great uncle, Albert Deppeler, a successful forester, mill-owner, cheesemaker, and philanthropist, was a friend of Aldo Leopold.
In 2011, my father and our family experienced a barn fire on a hot summer day in July. No animals or people died or physically harmed for the most part, but my father was demoralized. None of his 3 sons were interested, at the time, in farming for a future. He continued to milk for over a year, but eventually sold his dairy herd. I remember the day the fire burned and the look on my father's face. That coupled with the fact that I wasn't really emotionally tied to the farm, shook me. From that day, I started to think about farming for life. That eventually led to this whole twist on agriculture that we're embarking on.
Ideology: A Vision for the Future
Green Fire represents a burning ideology for fostering strong communities through robust and resilient farms, families, and small
businesses. While not currently completely-defined, my father and I, and our farm as an entity, have goals to build a functioning and fascinating agro-ecosystem that provides for our family, our
animals, our land, and our community. We believe that "sustainable" is not enough. It by definition means that current means of production are able to continue
indefinitely. Popular use of this term by businesses and corporations tend to be nothing more than laxy lip service. We want to be "REGENERATIVE", and not only maintain
current production, but increase it while not diminishing the resource base that we rely on. This is something that I, and to a lesser sense, my father, believe modern, conventional agriculture
fails to accomplish. Modern agriculture fails to even meet the less desirable conditions of "sustainable". Our nation's and planet's water, air, and most of all, soil, exemplifies this.
We are ambitiously converting and pursuing "regeneration", and can see that it is the way of the future for farming. This ideology is something that we want to pass on to others, especially fellow farmers in our community. It is understood that talk is cheap, and we need to lead by example. Consider us a match, that was struck in 2015, and with the right environment, leads to a fire that spreads quickly and renews the land for a rebirth of life.