What's your connection to the land?
I was born and raised in Hungary in a family with roots running deep into history. Growing up I spent my time between the Capital, Budapest, and a tiny village of 90 people, Szaknyer, where my parents had land. In the village we counted the days when power was on...most wagons had wooden wheels and we kept warm with and cooked on a wooden stove.
I loved plants early on. One cold November day, I was riding my bike home from the store a few miles away - before the climate change so we had ice and snow and blasting winds already. I saw that excavators were moving around the nursery where we always got the unique tree starts I was raising in the garden (like a real Sequoia sempervirens!). I stopped and went in and asked one of the rough looking guys what was happening.
They told me that the state (everything was owned by the state) decided to turn the site into something else and they are leveling the ground. I looked around and saw all the baby trees and asked can I save them? The guy looked at me and said I can take whatever I can dig before they get there with the machines.
I started digging...had no gloves, the ground was frozen...and I was able to dig out a little tree. Then I had to go, the machines came...I took it home and planted it in a corner. It is over 75 feet tall now.
What actions have you taken as a steward that you're most proud of and/or that you feel have made the biggest difference?
I left every piece of land I worked with or on better than I found it. I work with the land and not against it. I do not freely shape it and turn it into something it never was, I respect it by utilizing the site conditions and creating my processes to be in harmony with these qualities. I know I have done a lot as a stormwater management expert as well as a permaculture based small scale farmer, but I think what I feel the best about is the fact that I am always learning. I know a lot, but I do not know everything and I am willing to learn all the time.
I think where I made the biggest difference is actually not with any specific site, rather with people. By working with the kids and families through Farmer Frog, our nonprofit organization, we are showing people how to be better stewards of the land and slowly, but surely, we are helping our natural systems to just be. Because if more people understand that nature is inherently good and OK and has the tools to be well, Nature will have more chance at just be and flourish.
People feel things are imperfect. This is our culture. Fixing things. Always fixing things. This is how we mess things up. We messed up nature, our own society, our own bodies...we are learning lately that by allowing and not interfering so much, we can get greater results and more health. Kids do better if allowed to play. We do better if allowed to play. Clothes, shoes, they are expected to be comfortable, not just stylish anymore. And we also are realizing it is the same with Nature. So by showing the people that by doing less, we do more and will have more, I facilitate healing for all involved. Myself included.
What’s your hope for the next 75 years? (or) what advice do you have for those next 75 years?
I am glad you are asking this question. I actually think of 7 generations. Both directions. I am hoping, my great grandkids will have a beautiful and peaceful planet to live on and this planet will be Earth. Our Earth. I hope they will be exploring space but always come home to this gem, where it all began. I hope they will be eating clean water from their wells and pipes. Live on the surface of the Planet and breath clean air. The world will be lush and green and transportation will be minimal and easy and earth friendly. The old buildings in our cities will be restored and beautified and used to maximum potential. Box stores will be gone and infill will create highly functional and livable homes, much smaller than we live in the US today. I hope no one will be hungry and everyone will have clean and nutritious food on the Planet. No more wars....children will be learning about the barbaric practices in history class. In 'free' schools. And people will be healthier than today. Diabetes and cancer will be rare. And health care will be accessible everywhere for everyone. As for advice: treasure the Planet you have. It is your home and the home of your ancestors. Be kind and generous. Remember, your part of Nature, be grateful for the opportunity to experience it.