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The Vegan Farmer

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May 20, 2020

By the time you have lived a little, you acquire so many roles, passions, interests and skills. All of these add up to define you. To define your purpose and your motivations. I wear many hats that have shaped and guided me. The cornerstones of who I am; of what gets me out of bed in the mornings, of what I most value for myself are mother, partner, vegan and farmer. Mother and partner are not for this blog, although all that I do is done from a place of love and hope and of cherishing.

My beautiful picture

I think I may have been born vegan, although it was a long road that got me to realise it.

My earliest memories are of looking at the world around me and having a deep sense of their being something very wrong. I saw fields disappear to be replaced by houses and roads and my childish heart ached. The sight of a tree being felled left me in despair. I watched smoke curling up in to the blue sky and I asked ‘ where does it go?’ The reply, ‘Oh it disappears.’ left me skeptical and puzzled. I longed to be wild and free. To sleep under the stars. To walk through a world with no walls and fences. I craved connection.

In some ways, I was blessed to be a third child in a dysfunctional, middle class, suburban family. Everyone was busy with their personal dramas and so I got left to my own devices. I was up and out at the first bird song and my days were spent observing life around me. My best friend was a large avocado tree in the back garden. My constant companion a yellow mongrel dog. I planted seeds and watered them and watched them grow. I peeped into nests and saw the eggs hatch and the little doves grow. I wondered at clever stick insects building their sturdy homes out of sticks, glued together with silk. I found a deep and lasting joy in the natural world around me. It has never left me. All of my life, I have sought out wild and unspoiled places.

My greatest teachers have been the many animals I have know along the way.

The dogs and cats whom I have loved and who have loved me. I have been friends with a pig. We met when she was a small, timid baby. I was with her when she gave birth to her first litter and I was with her when she died from complications related to having just too many litters. I have been friends with a cow and her gentle, sensitive bovine nature will always bring a smile to me in the remembering. How she turned her back and would not greet me for 3 days when I offended her by chasing her into the milking shed. (I never owned them, was merely a care giver for the people who kept them and saw them as possessions and commodities). How I had to suck up and win back her trust. I have known a porcupine. He got washed out of a water pipe the day after he was born and I raised him and we remained friends long after he grew up and moved out. I cherish the memory of the long walks we took together through the veldt underneath the full moon. The evenings we spent side by side on the lounge carpet, listening to music. One of my very best friends was a small south american parrot. Her intelligence, her sense of humour, her loud, joyfulness will always inspire me. We grieved together when her mate died defending her from rats. I nursed her through illness and injury. She slept in the crook of my neck at night. Lying on her back, her legs in the air. She went everywhere with me. On my shoulder or buried underneath my clothing. Her immense wisdom and understanding are with me always. I have know other birds, other parrots, a crow, ducks and geese. They are the winged angels in our midst. I have known horses and rats and rabbits. When you truly befriend an animal and gain their trust they reveal themselves to you. They can teach us so much about what it means to love and about how to be nice people. About honesty, compassion, joy and gentle acceptance. To look deep into a round, black eye is to see love. It is the love that you see there that really connects all things. It is this love that is the very web of life.

We have strayed from the web, become disconnected and forgotten. We need the animals to remind us and to show us the way home, to our rightful place in the tapestry of life.

Knowing these things, how can I participate in the horror?

The cruelty. The exploitation. I cannot. Now I know how it feels when every cell in your body comes from a gentle and loving place. The food we eat is literally the building blocks of our very substance. You do not feel the same when your being excludes the pain and suffering and death of another sentient being. The last time I ate a fish, that fish invaded my consciousness for days afterwards. I felt it’s fishiness. I was it. I saw through it’s eyes and felt my being blended with it. I knew that it was the last fish I would ever eat. No flesh eater can know how wrenching it is when they sneak animal products into food they share with you thinking you won’t notice. We do. Many flesh eaters ask if we don’t miss meat. We don’t. This thing of not eating another sentient being is a deeply personal thing. No, we do not sneak a piece of cheese when no one is looking or have a nibble of bacon in private. This is not about impressing any one else or putting up a front. It is a commitment for life and to Life.

OK, so now we know why vegan, but what about farmer?

For most of my adult life, I have dreamed about being part of a sustainable community where we live and work together to create a sanctuary for hope and for life and where all things can feel safe and can reconnect into the web of Life. It is hard to step off of the consumer wheel. Our whole society is geared to keep us there. Working and shopping. Over and over again until we wear ourselves out and die strange, untimely deaths. People keep each other on the treadmill. If you dare to try and live differently you are reprimanded and judged. You are a stupid hippy or out with the fairies or you are irresponsible and need to live in the real world like the rest of us. So, I stumbled along trying to be normal for a long time. Raising children and earning and spending and driving and being generally a good girl. I was 40 before I decided that I could not anymore. That on this path lay only sickness and death. I knew that time was marching on and that I had to spend what energy remained doing meaningful, relevant stuff and I craved reconnection.

I was 43 before I finally stopped. Pulled up stumps and headed for the sticks. My little Nissan bakkie had me, my 3-year old daughter, 4 cats, 5 chickens, 1 parrot, 1 dog and a lot of plants. I had nothing else, other than my determination to forge a different path. Well, the years that followed were hard years. I learnt about humanities sharp edges. How unaccepting many people are of anything different from the herd. My naive trust and faith were sorely tried. But this was balanced by long walks in the veldt. By nights spent sleeping in caves deep in the kloofs. By meaningful relationships with plants, animals, trees, birds, the sky and the wind. There I found acceptance . I understood where we came from. Where we belong. What our part is in the dance of life. By the time I turned 50, I was emotionallt and psychologically worn down from the battle. I had lost hope and faith and reached an all time low. But, I had also learnt a lot about farming. I could fix a broken pipe, erect a fence, I could build with any materials, I could heal a sick chicken and milk a cow, prune a fruit tree and grow my own food. I was as committed as ever to finding a new way.

Then a wonderful man came into my life. Someone who listens. Who sees what others do not. Who had also been worn down by life in the real world. Someone who was prepared to try and understand and to give me the chance. Ricky Ball bought Ricky’s Drift to create a safe haven for himself from a toxic world. Soon after buying the farm, we met and he offered me a job creating a food garden on the farm. The rest is history. We have faced many challenges in the 7 years spent developing Ricky’s Drift. Doing things without being sure why or where exactly we were headed. Trying things and succeeding in some, failing in others. We stand at a cross roads in our journey. Where to next? We are close to creating that community of like minded people we dream of. Close to finding direction and to bringing the dream to life. We are also close to giving up. A little ragged at the edges and yet a spark of hope remains.

I have been vegetarian for most of my adult life and vegan on and off for 17 years.

In the last 2 years I have committed totally to a cruelty free lifestyle. I have realized that in these challenging times we have to find new ways of relating to our food and to the natural world around us. I have embraced the concept of vegan farming. Vegan is so much more than a dietary choice. It is a philosophy, a moral stand and our lifeline to a better world. These 120 hectares of land lend themselves to being part of pioneering a new way of farming and of being on the land. This is a new adventure and one that I hope to share with you in the months and years to come.

1 Comment

  1. Mariane Te Water says:

    Fascinating insight into a better ,responsible world. a Visionary, future world. Thank you.

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