One of my closest friends, Bryant Mason, is a first-generation farmer in Paonia, Colorado. Bryant has one of the most brilliant, entrepreneurial minds I’ve ever met; give him $50, an internet connection, and the freedom to pursue his blooming curiosity, and you’ll have a $500,000 business in six months. In only a few years, he has become one of the leading voices across the country in soil health with his business Soil Doctor, and he and his wife have purchased land and are turning it into a soil laboratory and peach orchard in Paonia.
I drove the 4.5 hours from Denver to Paonia two weeks ago to help him irrigate his land for a few days. We tilled furrows lined with cover crop, we lost battles with prairie dogs, we cleaned out drainages with the help of walkie-talkies.
We talked about water rights, microclimates, floodplains, and draughts. We pondered how a farmer’s relationship to the land imprints itself under nails and onto jeans and into joints. We discussed racism and food justice and rural America, and all of it — the whole experience visiting him — had such an impact on me that, when I got home, I lasted a full 24 hours deeply admiring the residents of my kitchen-counter fruit bowl, my tomatoes and apples and bananas, as heroic travelers on a triumphant journey we call the agricultural supply chain. But then the entitlement of my urban existence took control once again, and I became annoyed that my Instacart delivery didn’t have the cilantro I ordered. I have some unlearning to do.