I think I broke a primary rule of blogging this week as I only was really able to post once. I’m in the midst of grading (I teach graduate students) as well as vetting incoming student field projects. That’s just the tip of the ole iceberg but it’s been enough to put my writing on the back burner. It made me realize just how useful it would be to have a library of blog posts at my fingertips. Posts that are not date specific or time sensitive that could be plugged in when I hit crunch time in other parts of my life. Nonetheless, that’s not what this post is about.
I spent a little bit of an absolutely glorious June weekend working in a vineyard. Some friends have planted about an acre of pinot noir grapes and another friend (John) has taken over “managing” the vineyard. Originally the hope had been to make wine – no surprise – and sell the wine to help a group of us cover the cost of a trip to England. This is not a random group of friends but a group of Morris dancers, a kind of geeky English folk dance. Jokes abound about Morris dancing. Geeky enough to be on “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” on April 26. Unfortunately, their Morris jokes were lamer than even the ones I’ve collected. The vineyard as fundraiser is probably not going to work as the wine won’t be ready til 2015 or 2016 and the trip is planned for 2015.
But enough about that because this post is about working together and not about social entrepreneurship.
We’ve been working fairly regularly since February or March. John has been educating himself on what is needed and taking leadership. He’s been enlisting his friends to labor in the field because an acre, as small as it is, is actually rather large for one or even two people to manage. We’ve been lulled into thinking that the self-made man (or woman) really does it themselves. I’ve talked about this before, how this myth does us a disservice as it discredits the power of community. And community really is what gets things done. Or else you hire people. Either way, it’s a rare endeavor that involves only one person.
I will admit to being a skeptic about the whole vineyard, wine, funding the trip concept. But guess what? Even before it proved to be unfeasible I was working in the field and I’m continuing to do so. And perhaps even crazier, other people who have no friend connection to John, or the original concept, are coming to help. Maybe they’ll only come once, maybe they’ll come again. I don’t know. One of John’s friends who doesn’t even drink wine is coming to help.
So what do I draw from this? That people are aching for an agrarian experience? Maybe. For some people I think it’s curiosity – getting involved in the process of grape to wine. Or being able to do something that seems a bit out of the ordinary. God knows I never thought I’d be working in a vineyard.
Or is it that John has a charismatic personality that’s just burning through people to get them to be involved? I love John but I don’t think that’s it. Yet there’s a bit of a nub of truth in that, which goes beyond John as a particular person. I think many of us are doing this in solidarity. I know I am.
I have plenty of other work I could be doing in my own yard which is heavily gardened double city lot. But there is something that seems very important, very necessary, to help John (and by extension the two friends that actually own the vineyard). It’s this notion of solidarity, of working together in a group to achieve something bigger. I think this is a basic human underpinning. We are, after all, social creatures, and it’s in this social-ness that we get things done. Getting the crops in, barn raising, quilting bees and all of the stereotypes of the pioneer age and way before and beyond that. These communal activities were necessary for the individual’s survival as well as the community’s.
It’s hard-wired into us. We may function in solitary ways – I’m working my rows alone but we are all working together to prune the field.
So let’s lift a glass in solidarity. To us.