“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.” — Wendell Berry
The line above from Wendell Berry’s poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” has stuck with me since I heard it many years ago. For me, its staying power comes from Berry’s ability to both reassure and challenge us in a single simple phrase.
It’s a hopeful reminder that even in the face of all of we know — about the abuse of people and land and the rise of unchecked corporate power — joy continues to survive in the hearts of people.
There are times when I need to be reminded of this. Like when I read about rainforests (rainforests!) burning and larger and larger ice shelves crashing into the ocean. Or when I see the dangerous extent to which the rich and powerful will go to protect and grow their obscene amounts of hoarded wealth. In these moments, joy feels all but lost for a planet on the brink of destruction.
The facts about the state of our planet and its inhabitants are important and sobering. Berry tells us not to ignore them, but to know them and weigh them carefully.
But knowing the facts is not enough. Knowledge without action is inert, and by itself it lacks the power to create change. That’s why Berry’s use of the word “joyful” is so impactful.
Joy is more than being content or even happy. Joy is exciting and kinetic. Joyful people are movement people who share their energy and radiate their hope.
When I look across the Land Stewardship Project’s membership, I see just these kinds of people: informed, undaunted and joyful.
People like organic dairy farmer Loretta Jaus, who was recognized this fall by the White House as a “Champion of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture.”
And leaders like Omari Chatman, who has grown from an intern at the Hope Community in South Minneapolis to become the co-chair of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, boldly moving forward to create public food landscapes in a city that favors private ownership and buildings over the needs of people and the land.
And young farmers who have graduated from LSP’s Farm Beginnings Program, like Lauren and Caleb Langworthy, who in the face of terrific challenges courageously choose to start farming.
And long-time farmers like Curt Tvedt, who continue to innovate and adapt farming systems to improve soil health and reduce erosion, even though they are surrounded by thousands of acres of monocrop agriculture owned and controlled by fewer and fewer people.
And the hundreds of people in Winona County who refuse to bow to corporate frac sand interests that would destroy the land for short-term profits and are organizing to enact a precedent-setting ban on frac sand mining activities.
These are the actions of joyful people. They inspire me to be joyful in my work, to take risks, try new things and be hopeful, even though I have considered the facts.
The people and the work I’ve described here are just some of the examples of the work carried out by Land Stewardship Project members every day. All of it has been made possible by the contributions that every member of LSP makes to the organization.
As we approach the end of the year, I want to ask you to take this moment and make a contribution before Dec. 31. Make it a joyful contribution, one that will lift up the work of these innovators, risk-takers and organizers. I am asking you to make a contribution that you can feel, one that fills your heart and raises your spirits.
That could be starting a new monthly pledge or adding $10, $15 or $35 a month to your current pledge. It could be doubling your annual membership renewal gift this year. It could be making a year-end gift of $25, $75, $250 or $1,000. It could mean making a gift of stock or adding LSP to your planned giving. To make a gift and for more information, click here.
Whatever gift you choose to make, I want you to know it will have an impact and be put to work where it is needed most. I want to thank you for your continued support for the Land Stewardship Project. Here is to a new year of joy, energy, hope and action!
Mike McMahon is director of LSP’s Individual Giving and Membership Program. He’s at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-722-6377.