My friend and fellow farmer Alan Haight spent the afternoon helping me move sheep today. Alan and his wife Jo own Riverhill Farm in Nevada City - they grow the most amazing vegetables! I've had the privilege of working with Alan on a variety of educational and other projects over the years, a relationship that has been solidified by our mutual admiration for the works of Wendell Berry.
Alan is one of the most community-minded farmers I know. Late last year, he asked if he could come work with me one day this winter - and today was that opportunity. Together, we moved our 220 ewes from Shanley Ranch back to Oak Hill Ranch (where our corrals are) so that we can vaccinate them tomorrow. This move entailed a walk of about one-and-a-half miles - moving the sheep with the border collies is less stressful and more cost effective than putting them in a trailer - along with moving water troughs, guard dogs and llamas, and fencing.
While the extra set of hands made the afternoon go much more quickly than it would have otherwise, it was also a pleasure to get to work with another farmer. We've made a commitment to help new farmers learn the skills necessary to raise sheep, an activity I love. However, I realized this afternoon how much I enjoy working with someone who already understands the work (and work in general).
I also realized today that a farming community must be intentional. In our region, farms are generally spread out geographically - the days of farming next to a neighbor who also farms are gone (thanks to development and economic trends). Those of us who still make our living farming must work to strengthen the community of farmers. Working together, more than anything, reinforces these connections. Alan is a model for all of us - we should all seek opportunities to work together. Alan jokingly told me that he'd call me in July (in the height of his vegetable season) for repayment. In all seriousness, though, that's what community means - we help each other when our help is needed - and we don't keep track of the balance of repayment. Thank you, Alan, for reminding me!