Smaller Slower Softer
‘Success’ these days generally means bigger, faster, and harder.
In shaping North Farm, we longed for a different way … a world where what was small would be valued for its beauty, where what was slow would be recognised for its wisdom, and where softness would be cherished for its capacity to give – in the sense both of being generous and of being able to yield when life calls us to be flexible.
We summed up this ethos with the phrase: ‘Small is beautiful, slow is wise, and soft gives’.
We have reflected on this little summary of our values as we’ve reflected on key decisions in developing the place. So, for example, with the dairy goats: what’s the right size of our herd? More than about 10 goats would mean we had to resort to vacuum-driven machinery to draw the milk out of the goats’ udders. The machinery makes milking quicker, but it is noisy, makes it harder to enjoy the ancient rhythms of hand-milking and the sounds of nature around the milking shed, requires lots of chemicals to sanitise the equipment after milking … and (worst of all) risks damaging the goats’ udders and increases the chances of the goats getting a painful inflammation known as mastitis, which also reduces milk quality.
Yet a ‘hard-nosed’ business decision would mean we would either increase the herd to ‘commercial scale’, or … not have the goats at all because they are ‘uneconomic’.
So, what price size, speed and hardness?
Rejecting, or at least re-examining, the drive to ‘growth at all costs’ is challenging. It means being willing to go back to first principles in making decisions that are about livelihood rather than just business. There is little support in mainstream culture for this kind of thing. Here in Bellingen though there is interest in what it takes to live ‘a good life’ – not in the sense of la dolce vita or even ‘making a good living’, but rather in the sense of a life lived well.
For us at North Farm, a good life means living in nature together as part of a caring local community. It means noticing the beauty in every day, taking time for whatever life offers, and being gentle and kind.
To read more about what interests and informs us, check out our blog, and watch our beautiful video below to get a real sense of our beautiful environment.