Celebrating Independence & Interdependence

By Farm Manager, Russ Cerocke

           Hello farm followers! This weekend, many of us will be celebrating Independence Day, a day to celebrate our nation’s independence from the grasp of the British empire. Had this remained a British colony, who knows what would have been. Personally, I’m not much for what-could-have-beens. Instead, I prefer to focus on the what-is. When we are out working in the fields of the beautiful McDonald Farm, it is hard to imagine a concept like independence. Out in the fields, what quickly becomes apparent is interdependence, rather than independence.

This week on the farm I witnessed the interdependence of plants and insects quite boldly. We have had an infestation of cucumber beetles for some time, both spotted and striped, that are subsiding. Now, I had read about wolf spiders and lady bugs preying on the young cucumber beetles, but to see this connection in person really made me appreciate it. At first, our plants were started in stressful conditions, heat and drought. This stress made them susceptible to beetle predation. But, when beetles increase in number, just like when stressed plants appear in large numbers, they will attract the yin to their yang. What is the yin to the cucumber beetle’s yang? Wolf spiders and lady bugs! In the process of scouting, we first noticed the decline of plants, then the rise of beetles, followed by a rise in predatory insects, and now, we are able to see our plants recovering. Nature is amazing!

The interdependence of cucurbit-beetle-spider interaction is just one aspect of interdependence we were reminded of this week. In pondering independence, we must begin to ask to what this concept even applies to? I can only think of one instance that the term independence applies, and that is among our human cultures. The political borders that we have drawn to divide segments of our human culture is really the focus of the independence concept. In reality, borders are imaginary lines created to delineate human cultures. Due to the record-breaking wildfires in Canada, a country we are independent from politically, we experienced several days of haze as the smoke blocked the sunlight and thickened the air. We might be independent politically, but we are interdependent in the sense that there is only one Earth. Changing climate, pollution, and land mis-use are problems that all of us should recognize, and the only solutions will be found by working interdependently.

Finally, as the heat and smoky conditions persisted, our farm crew also felt this sense of interdependence. The hazy air, long days, and heat, in combination with damp conditions, and the return of weeds after the much-needed rains, was weighing heavy on our minds and our bodies. By sticking together, supporting one another, and working through tough decisions, we grew closer as a team and recognized the importance of our own interdependence. Not only within the crew, but among management, volunteers, and all TCF staff. For instance, in a few weeks we will have a massive garlic pull, without the help of our staff and volunteers, it would take days! None of us could do the amazing work that’s being done here independently.

A mission to improve the health of our communities by preserving and restoring natural areas and open space, protecting rivers and watersheds, and promoting stewardship of our environment would not be possible as independent people, nor as an independent organization of people. We need the help of our communities, our neighbors of all species, to bring out the beauty that is hiding behind every leaf. There may be 7 continents, 195 countries, and 50 states, but in reality, they all exist on one Earth. Happy Interdependence Day!



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