Know Your Farmer

This post is republished with permission from the author. It first appeared on Savanna Roach

Bali, Indonesia 2016 – I believe that food works a little bit like karma: When you put good things into your body, you have energy. You feel alive. It’s when we start throwing factory farms, all those ingredients you can’t pronounce, and semi-trucks filled with crinkly bags of ‘all natural’ snacks into the mix that we get sick and bogged down.  The answer, I believe, to keeping your food karma in check, is to know your farmer.

Last week, the Kul Kul Connection team kicked off a pilot rice-planting program to do just this. Just three kilometers away from the haven of Green School – down a road that you drive on until it doesn’t really look like a road anymore, is a rice paddy that belongs to our very own Giyan’s grandfather, I Ketut Liput. For decades, he’s plodded through the geometric fields of mud, built his own tools, and cultivated harvest after harvest of the crop that literally sustains our island.  This spring, he’s dedicated three are of land to us.

Every piece of the rice planting process is backed with so much intention.  Without giving too many spoilers, it starts with some seeds a bucket of water, salt, and a raw egg. This is to separate the good from the bad – to guarantee that only the positive is going into the earth.  When the seeds meet the earth for the first time the following day, they are scattered gently by hands that are attached to bodies knee deep in mud, faces shaded by peaked straw hats, and skin permanently tinted from hours under the sun. It is a distinctly human experience.

I’ve decided that growing rice must be one of the most peaceful professions on this planet. It is the epitome of ‘slow living’ – that simplistic and spiritual lifestyle we’ve come to this place looking for. And yet, there is so much knowledge, history, and pride that goes into each and every rice cycle. There is a little bit of a language barrier, but we communicated with this toothless 70-year-old in his rice paddy through smiling. His eyes gave you a look of assurance and contentedness. Of happiness.  Sometimes saying nothing says everything. He had already built a retaining wall for our baby seeds in the paddy by the time our feet even touched the mud and Giyan had to keep reminding him to let us have a chance with his homemade tools that where smooth in the places where his calloused hands grasped.

As an international citizens living in Bali, being in the rice fields is not so much about learning farming principles, it is about pedagogy of place.  We are contextualizing ourselves within the identity of this island and the humans that thrive within it.  We are engaged with it in a way that is authentic and meaningful. We are learning to know our farmer. And just maybe, we are learning to know ourselves a little bit more too.

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