The difference between peasants and farmers in Mexico according to Ana Stern. Peasants, she said, satisfy their own basic needs; they grown their food, build the houses they live in, often make their own clothes. Most peaseants collect medicinal herbs, treat medical emergencies, supply their family entertainment. They experience fully what they do every day; they have time- they feel joy. Their culture is integral, it makes sense. Farmers by contrast grow things to sell. With that they earn from their products, they buy their groceries, building materials, clothes, entertainment, and medical insurance. They must also buy into a system which demands that they drive to market, pay taxes, perhaps send their kids to agricultural college. Increasingly they must buy machinery, seeds, farm chemicals. Farmers have no time to directly enjoy satisfying their own needs, so they purchase their satisfactions; they buy ready-made clothing and ‘convenience’ foods.*
Most of us are farmers according to Ana’s definition. In Boodaville, I get a taste of what life as an peasant feels like. I have timeto observe my surroundings. I learn plant names, for example ones I would identify as weeds, and find out that some of them medicinal. I discovered how chickens love to make a big mess. So I top up the vegetable beds with lots of compost, manure and cut grass. I put the portable chicken house on top. I sit down on a rock with my cup of tea and watch how they mix everything together and into the soil. How they fight over an insect one of the chickens found, pulling on it from different sides. I decide to call this channel ‘Chicken TV.’ I laugh, I feel rich.
In the foodforest we have lots of edible plants. I ask the appletree if she has any apples ready for eating by softly shaking it. One apple drops. The apple tastes better than any other apple I ever ate. I try to describe the taste but suitable words don’t seem to exsist. And while I stand there in the foodforest, watching the abundance, I realise I stand in a place that, in theory, has so little potential due to its geographic location. This is what design can do. It puts everything in life in a whole different light. The light of hope. One thing I know for sure. This is what Ana Stern means by being a peasant. And this is a feeling I love.
*The hand-sculpted house by Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith and Linda Smiley.