“…while, from a very small piece of ground, a large part of the food of a considerable family may be raised, the very act of raising it will be the best possible foundation of education of the children of the laborer.”
William Cobbett, Cottage Economy (1824)

One of the most remarkable aspects of human life is how what is truly good ends up being good in more ways than we realized. There are many things in which as we go through life we discover a generous plan written-in to reality.

The most obvious examples are in the moral realm, as for instance how hard-won qualities such as honesty or fidelity bear many fruits we could not have foreseen. We might think of the little boy whose habitual truth-telling ends up winning for him positions of responsibility and honor.

Similarly, acting in accord with ‘natural’ patterns that are not explicitly moral likewise has manifold fruits. Xenophon gives the example that taking exercise by riding a horse on one’s homestead simultaneously improves knowledge of one’s land, keeps one in good physical shape, and keeps one sharp in the military art, not to mention keeps the horse well trained and gives occasion to appreciate natural beauty!

William Cobbett refers to something of great practical implication, especially today: the multi-valence of raising some food in the household. I return to this often because it is such an astounding example of interconnection in human life and flourishing… if we but make the effort to recognize and enact this gift.

Cobbett focuses on the time tested truth that cultivating the earth can also cultivate the soul. And this applies especially, but certainly not exclusively, in the case of the young. To do this well will require being intentional and prudent.

But wait there is more. In a time of food-supply uncertainty we cannot overlook how home production also becomes a bastion for social stability. I would venture that now is a time for all who reasonably can to take steps to begin or enhance the production of some food at home. And those who cannot do so themselves can encourage and support others in doing so.

There is no downside. The upsides are multiple. And in certain eventualities, the upside could be life-saving. To say this is not to fear monger. It is to realize the specific challenge, and yes the gift, of the times in which we life, while also to rediscover an ancient wisdom that has become obscured.

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NOTE: In the midatlantic states (and many others too), we can still plant some fall crops now: hardy greens such as chard, kale, and spinach; not to mention lettuces. You might still be able to grow some beets, a great vegetable to store for winter. And here is an encouragement to plan ahead to order some raspberry plants for next spring…


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