The Beginning Farmer: Connection As Urban Advantage | MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Nyberg
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Yep, I know they’ve been talked about in Mother Earth News magazine.Some love ’em, others hate ’em.I am one of the former.I love the simplicity, the endless possibilities, the light-weight functionality — and, no,I’m not talking about the hand rake.

Far from being a distraction in that first formative year of Horse Drawn Farms, my Blackberry was an indispensable tool.And that’s really saying something for someone who is the opposite of a techno-nut.Someone who is as slow as molasses to adopt new technology; who would rather, as the name of the farm suggests, stick to Things Old.The 100 year old butter-churner, the foot pedal spinning wheel, the hand-cranked honey extractor — all will vouch for me. As will my husband, who does not sympathize with my glaring unhappiness when he revs up that shrieking chain saw of his.

But my smartphone, which can access either 4G or my house wireless from the entire farm, is in a different category.It’s a huge advantage to be thus connected.It’s a learning tool, and it’s instant.It’s the difference between education, and none.It’s a library, a lecture hall and a round table discussion all wrapped up in one little black device.Out under an afternoon’s sun on my small patch of ground, I inquired of my favourite search engine: “How to Grow Vegetables Intensively.”Within an hour, after weighing the input of other west coast farmers, my decision to produce with raised boxes was made.I knew how to build them.I knew how to modify and improve the soil.I could take the fervour of that April afternoon and start immediately, measuring for the first box, shovel in hand, buoyed by the successes and passion that others had recorded before me.A passerby would have seen, perhaps, just another GenXer, checking email for the fortieth time in a hour, staring with rapt stupidity at a little white screen.That person could not have known about the transformation, the excitement occurring in the heart of this newbie farmer.

Having access to the internet outside didn’t do the work for me, of course.I grunted and wrestled with hundreds of pounds of soil to double-dig beneath my boxes just like anyone else would.Nor did it prevent the occasional mistake of judgment.But surrounding those mistakes was the instant ability to discover how to correct them, or at least ask advice of those with more experience.Should I remove that hen when I see that behaviour? I had the answer in two minutes and took her out of the flock.I believe that in dealing with all the new stock that was to come to the farm in the months ahead — the chickens, the rabbits, the beehives, the sheep, the dairy goats — the incredible connection in my pocket vastly, hugely, gigantically increased my learning curve, and, thereby, their comfort and well-being.

 How did I find out about Mother Earth News, after all?Outside, with a trowel in one hand, and my phone in the other.