Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
When my wife and I consider whether Rancho Cappuccino helps create abundance, we need to look at all three underlying questions: Does it enhance natural resources, improving supply? Does it help reduce demand? And, does it help us embrace simplicity?
The mere fact that we raise food on our 50 acres makes a contribution to the supply of resources. If we were not farming the property, it might support horses or llamas, it might be subdivided for suburban housing or it might simply be neglected through the growing season and then burned off each spring to control weeds and wildfires. By rotating cattle, sheep and goats on the pastures we try to maximize the efficient conversion of grass into meat, while protecting the health of the land. We have to balance the overall productivity of the property against the need to protect the soil and water – and our desire to make it beautiful. We’re confident that our property is far more productive than it was before we owned it, and that we make a sizable and material contribution to the conservation and supply of natural resources – healthy food, clean water and a diversity of living things.
Of course we also consume some resources that we wouldn’t if we lived in a townhome. We drive a little farther to work. We own a heavy-duty pickup, a stock trailer and a compact tractor. We need diesel fuel for the truck and tractor. We haul animals here and there. We use electricity to thaw water for the livestock. To balance the extra consumption we buy more efficient automobiles when we can, we continue to maximize the efficiency of our energy usage and we try not to drive unnecessarily.
In the sum of things, we’re pretty sure we’re making a positive contribution to efficient food production. There’s more food, produced more efficiently, and a healthier environment than would exist in a world without Rancho Cappuccino.
But does it reduce the net demand for resources?
The life of part-time farmers who also pursue demanding careers is neither the simplest nor the most frugal of human lifestyles. We drive back and forth to jobs every day – and we often feel compelled to exceed the speed limit, slightly. We travel for business by car and airplane. My wife and I work in separate offices, when we work at home, burning separate lights and, obviously, running separate computers.
Of course human productivity is a natural resource, also. I believe my wife’s dedication to teaching creates benefits in the future for people and the planet. If she left teaching to stay home and can vegetables on a wood stove, would the world be better off? Probably not.
It is my privilege through my work to engage people in conversations about a healthy, sustainable human future. Would my contribution be more positive if I stopped publishing and retreated to the frugal simplicity of a farm? I don’t believe it would.
Also, Carolyn and I travel for pleasure. We love South America and Hawaii. When I’m in New York or Los Angeles for business my wife sometimes comes along. We enjoy the museums, the music and the food. We particularly enjoy exploring the natural environment – deserts, mountains, islands and oceans. Travel is a luxury, but it also enhances our appreciation for human beings and the natural world. It is one of the products of abundance that I would rather not do without.
Furthermore, it’s not logical to think that we can visualize an abundant future if we don’t understand and appreciate abundance in our own lives. I believe we need to explore and appreciate the world – both intellectually and physically – in order to make a positive contribution to the collective human vision. In this respect, travel may be among the most important and constructive of our activities.
So we balance and manage our consumption of resources against our responsibilities to contribute to the world and our opportunities to explore and appreciate the planet.
The question of whether my lifestyle helps promote simplicity is not easy to answer. My wife and I raise most of our own food. That certainly sounds like it promotes simplicity. Of course it also requires that we manage equipment, vehicles, animals and land. We have demanding careers and something like two additional full-time jobs running the farm. It might promote simplicity, but it doesn’t always feel simple.
On the other hand, if peace of mind is part of simplicity’s definition, then our lifestyle supports simplicity in a profound way. We love to travel, but our favorite place is Rancho Cappuccino. On most holidays, this is where you’ll find us. The farm inspires us to pour our love and attention into the land and when that land returns to us our food and health our appreciation is compounded. In a sense, that’s human existence at its simplest and most elemental. Rancho Cappuccino helps us understand on a visceral level the basic realities. The sun shines. The grass grows. We live in a miraculous pantry stocked with solar energy. Our gardens mix sunshine with minerals and make tomatoes, blackberries, pumpkins and okra. We bring it together in our kitchen and freezers. Finally, it is all united at the dinner table with our friends and family.
The process clears my mind.