Countryside Matters

Darwin Kelsey, Executive Director

We live in unusual times.  For the first time in human history (the last century or so) hundreds of millions of people (in urban-suburban America, and the rest of the industrialized world) live their daily lives separated (insulated) from natural and cultivated landscapes (and the organisms they support).  Most of our society is utterly ignorant of our utter dependence on such landscapes.  Most of us are utterly unaware of any connection between increased electrical consumption and the removal of entire mountains for coal – or between “cheap” cereal and lifeless soil incapable of supporting plant life, or warding off pests, without chemical additives.

Everybody eats, and until the past century or two most humans lived daily lives which brought them into direct contact with the living landscapes which actually produced their food.  They saw, grasped, appreciated their own fundamental dependency on those lands, for life itself.  That connection is now obscure, or totally lost, for most Americans.  What you cannot see, or understand, you cannot care about.  Today, the need to save farmland is remote abstraction for most.

The countryside is where people work with plants and animals to grow things – on purpose, to feed us.  And it is that activity – farming, especially the growing of food – more than any other factor, force, or process which shapes the look, feel, and character of the countryside.  Indeed, where and how food is grown and processed profoundly affects the look, feel, and character of the city and wild as well.  And it is that  realization – the extraordinary social, environmental and economic consequences of where and how food is produced – which increasingly shapes the purpose and character of the Countryside Conservancy’s initiatives and programs.

We believe that the countryside is literally a “food artifact” – sculpted by the activities and processes associated with growing food.  Yet, we hold that truth not to be self-evident in our day and culture.  Indeed, we doubt that such an idea has ever crossed the mind of many modern Americans.  Conservancy initiatives and programs are about changing that – they are about changing our very food mentality, our food culture.  We hope to build a culture that understands that personal food choices have “landscape shaping and climate changing implications”.

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