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Issue Seven / Photo Essay
“The patterns and contours of our farmland are a measure of hours and labor. Each farmer’s story is ploughed into the soil”

The Farmer’s Canvas

Words by Louisa Thomsen Brits Photographs by Parker Fitzgerald

Looking down on the soil of the land, it reveals so much: the labor of farmers, extreme weather, lines and curves, changing landscapes over time. Every field tells a story.

We see the fabric of our landscape change with each passing season. Every curve and line, field and path is shaped by rain, wind, light, footfall and time. Spring arrives and the seeded furrows, ridges and folds begin to soften with new growth. Fresh texture and color appear on the famer’s canvas. Fallow months have given them a handful of days to slow down, to listen to the earth, to plant and prepare to meet to our needs.

Our farmland is suffused with human feeling. Its patterns and contours are a measure of hours and labor. Each farmer’s story is ploughed into the soil. Their livelihood depends on how they till the delicate place between wilderness and man, nature and culture. The wildest part of each of us is our need to survive, to eat, to love, to connect. Growing and sharing food binds place and inhabitants together. Farmers are a bridge between earth and table, seed and sustenance. When we gather to share a meal, we feel our intimate and practical connection with the earth and remember our interdependence.

If we pause to look at the landscape of our own busy lives, to consider what we eat, what we ask for, what we can share, what each of us can bring to the table, we take a step toward a place of careful husbandry and continuous harmony.

When we turn toward the mystery of our own nature, to day and night, season and tide, the rhythm of our instinct and sensations become part of the natural world around us. We give more thought to those whose hands reach into the dark soil to plant at the death of every year and share with them the pleasure and relief of witnessing new growth. Maybe then, we understand that we never really own; we’re simply caretakers of a land that reflects our intention, mistakes and promises.

And so a careful conversation begins between nature, farmers and ourselves, one that shifts and sighs and assumes the same kind of creaturely life as all the things that grow around us in spring.

Without nature, farmers cannot thrive. They need us to cherish what remains of it and to help foster its renewal. Every spring, theirs is the green hope that we might see, in the pattern of the landscape, the marks of our choices and the tracks we make that are all inextricably linked to the ancient paths that have always connected communities and are still trodden from field to field, from one home to another.

Parker Fitzgerald shot this story using a Leica M3 and Kodak Professional Portra 160 Film.

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