“But how we farm or raise children is, in large part, determined by cultural norms…”

Lewis Hine. Teixiera family. Mary 11 years old, Manuel, 10 yrs. Mother and these two children pick 40 measures a day at 7 (cents) (via Wikimedia Commons)
Lewis Hine. Teixiera family. Mary 11 years old, Manuel, 10 yrs. Mother and these two children pick 40 measures a day at 7 (cents) (via Wikimedia Commons)

In the case of both farming and child-rearing, part of what makes the process so confusing is that it’s often sold to us as natural, as innate, as timeless.

But how we farm or raise children is, in large part, determined by cultural norms—not just natural impulse. To cut down trees in order to plant vegetables or husband animals, to bring children into the world: these are deeply entrenched human activities, whose commonplaceness is undermined by the fierce contentions around how they should best be done.”

Eva-Lynn Jagoe, “How Will We Farm?” (LARB)

Though I’m not currently farming, or even gardening, due to my apartment arrangements and child-raising activities, this reminder from Jagoe helps me recognize a continuity between my work in fields and with children. Both undertakings involve grappling with the malleable, contingent basis of where we come from and how we sustain ourselves. Agriculture and parenting both require choices amidst multiple uncertainties, and both work through processes of gradual accretion, over years, seasons, decades, erosions, generations.

And the fact that these choices and processes are social, cultural phenomena also means that they will vary geographically, and can be tailored regionally. Though the socio-cultural pressures can be a source of conflict, they present an opportunity, as well, if we understand how food systems and family systems can work together toward a bioregional future.

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