Continuation of our series, see previous post.
Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga Instructor in Mariposa, California (USA)
Written: May 23rd, 2020
I squint through a thick haze to locate the road as my families van careens through the Merced river canyon. A quick glance in the rear view mirror reveals the bright red trailer I am towing, containing our hastily assembled prized possessions. One of our chickens squawks and perches on my forearm to catch a glimpse as I try and retain balance around the hairpin turns. The remaining three chicks defecate on my finest clothing as they explore our packed dodge ram. All I can smell is smoke as fire rages and licks at the hilltops above me.
The aforementioned routine has become an annual pilgrimage as each summer California wildfires force our evacuation and come within several kilometers of burning our home to the ground. Californians are not the only ones facing the increasing danger of climate change. This past year headlines have been made with the burning of the Amazon and Australia. Urban centers offer no reprieve as cities from Delhi to Sao Paulo have become choked with smog pollution. As the planets lungs, in the form of forests, burn, so do our own. As without, so within.
Should it be any wonder then that this year also saw the rise of a novel respiratory disease, in the form of Covid-19? Or that its global spread was hastened by fossil fuel guzzling, carbon emitting planes and cars? It should come as no surprise, simply speaking to the interconnection of all things.
As terrifying as our global problems are, we have the potential to overcome them. After all, our ancestors have successfully survived every challenge that our volatile planet has thrown at them for billions of years. It is these ancestors who we should look towards in times of crisis.
How did they do it? Some learned to breathe underwater, others in the open air. Still more learned to fly in the sky. A whole kingdom learned how to convert the suns light into sugar and oxygen. These are but a few of the billions of adaptations that life has made to survive for those billions of years. Diversity is our greatest strength.
It is from that fundamental understanding that I reject mono-culture, be it found in mind or soil. No one way has a 100% chance of success. Not one authority and not one crop. Even the best can and will fail given enough time. Not a mind, nor a body, not even a stomach, is happy with the same thing every moment of every day. Variety is the spice of life.
Therefore I am proud to stand outside convention as an organic farmer. Only 1% of the US population remain farmers. Less than 1% of the harvest these farmers produce is organic. These trends make it more important than ever to spread our message of diversity of food and thought.
Quarantine has provided the time free from societal influence to work on our homes and selves. We built a tent cabin to get more in touch with nature. I’ve started two gardens this spring. One for me and another for my brother. We have entered into a competition on who can grow the best tasting vegetables. It is from this type of competitive spirit that evolution and innovation arise, not following a standardized corporate protocol.
My brother and I taste testing freshly picked strawberries from our organic gardens
By fueling our bodies with healthy, natural, and diverse foods we begin to heal our homes from the ground up. When we become self sufficient we can teach our neighbors skills and they can discover techniques to help us in turn. You can only heal the world by first healing yourself. As within, so without.
A Little More About Me:
Followed in the footsteps of my grandfather Roy M Kottman who got his MS degree in Genetics from the university of Wisconsin and BS/PhD degrees in Animal Science from Iowa State University before becoming dean of The Ohio State University department of Agriculture for 22 years. I got my BS degree in Genetics and Cell Biology from Washington State University studying phthalates, contaminants that leech out of plastic products and potentially harm reproductive organs. My MS degree is in Integrated Genetics and Genomics from University of California – Davis while teaching for the Animal Science department and researching food borne Salmonella infection in poultry. I moved away from laboratory research in 2017 after my mother passed away. I wanted to live my best life working outside, traveling, and interacting with people instead of being isolated indoors performing experiments on microscopic liquids pursuing someone else’s legacy.
Next post from the series: Permaculture, DIY and Circular Economics | The Odd Gamnut