A year ago a Bulgarian named Philip contacted me about translating YOU CAN FARM into Bulgarian. We met in England during the spring and shook hands on the deal. It is proceeding apace and here is the customized introduction for that Bulgarian translation. I find words unable to convey the joy that accompanies knowing that the Polyface Farm message will soon be occupying the eyes and minds of Bulgarian farmers. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall as farmers gather with family and friends to discuss their new-found possibilities and empowerment? Enjoy.
The most common initial reaction whenever I conclude a presentation somewhere is this: “Well, that’s fine and dandy for you right there in Swoope, Virginia, in the U.S., but it won’t work here.” All of us assume the other person has it easier. It’s either warmer or colder, drier or wetter, more populated or less populated, richer or poorer. We all feel like our circumstances are more difficult than the person who has been successful doing what we’ve struggled to do.
These days I travel all over the world doing seminars and meeting farmers on their farms. Urban farms. Rural farms. North, South, East, West. Socialist societies and less socialist. And I’ve had a lot of visitors from both developed and non-developed countries. And what I’ve learned is that we’re far more similar than dis-similar. In other words, our situations are more alike than unlike.
Everyone struggles with capital. Everyone struggles with marketing. Everyone struggles with naysayers. But the sun shines everywhere; rain falls everywhere; soil exists everywhere; and people eat everywhere. Food is the most common denominator among humans. We can have different religions, currencies, architecture and clothing styles, but we all have to eat. And that food must be produced somewhere.
I have never met a person or walked on a farm that was unable to teach me something. Whether it’s a clever gate latch or a marketing tip, everyone everywhere has something to teach. I am extremely excited about this material making its way to Bulgaria. I’m completely indebted to Philip Harmandjiev for having the vision and persistence to see it through.
Don’t get bogged down in the Swoope-specific details, but enjoy the big principles. Those are the same no matter where you live in the world. To make sure they are clear, here is a short list:
1. Soil is carbon-centric. It is not inert material, but is fundamentally a living, carbon-fed community.
2. The role of the farmer is to leverage solar energy into biomass production and keep as much of that production on the farm for as long as possible–view the farm as a giant reservoir with a very slow leak.
3. All ecosystems have both plants and animals. No functional ecosystem exists that is either all plants or all animals.
4. Animals move. They are not sedentary.
5. Portable infrastructure enables the farmer to divorce the farm business from the land business–they are two separate businesses.
6. Multi-generational succession requires low capitalization hurdles to enter the business. When young people can’t get in, old people can’t get out. The infrastructure value in relation to gross farm sales must be low rather than high.
7. Diversifying production, processing, and marketing spreads financial risk to stabilize commodity price swings.
8. Selling less at higher margin is more stable than selling more at lower margin.
9. Forget exports. Feed your community. What do you wish you could buy? Chances are others wish the same thing. Meet that need.
10. The government and credentialed agriculture experts are wrong 99 percent of the time. Stay out of their offices; don’t listen to their counsel; don’t attend their lectures. Enjoy your own dream.
Throughout this book you’ll find these big principles explained in many different ways. Be assured that everything you read in this book goes counter to official U.S. advice. My farming neighbors think I’m a lunatic, or at least a bio-terrorist. That’s okay–they’re going out of business and I’m expanding and surrounded by a team of 20-somethings. I still wake up every day excited to be a farmer, excited about what I’ll learn today, and excited about touching a square foot of ground, caressing it into healing.
In a day when farmers are marginalized and even demonized, this most basic of all vocations screams for entrepreneurial stewards. You can be one, and I hope this book draws successful Bulgarian practitioners to the farming arts like it has in other parts of the world.
Yes, Bulgaria, you can farm.