2016-02-16 16.41.47It’s time to harvest barley.

For us that means the rumble of combine harvesters all day and long into the night.

And it means realising how tiny our property is. Never does our property feel so small as when the neighbour harvests next door.

He’s been harvesting for weeks—distant fields—but today he cut the barley behind our house. The harvester dwarfs every building on our property. If I planted every inch of our land in barley, he’d be able to harvest it in just a few passes.

When he drives down the road between fields, the machine fills the road entirely—good thing there’s little traffic out here.

It’s a reminder of the massive scale modern agriculture works on. And these Canterbury farms are nothing compared to the ones in the Midwestern US.

It’s also a reminder that my view of agricultural life, as a “subsistence” farmer is entirely different from my neighbours’ views.

I count my plantings by the square metre or by the plant, they measure theirs in the tens of hectares.

I measure the harvest by the colander, they by the truckload.

My tools are a hoe, a spade and a knife—at a garage sale, you might buy them all for under $20. His tools include multiple machines clocking in at over $100,000 each.

I can produce $50,000 worth of food over the course of a year. He can lose twice that amount in a bad storm.

My soil and water conservation strategies—mulching with grass clippings, using drip irrigation, composting everything—don’t scale up to two hundred hectares. Nor do my planting, harvest and storage techniques.

There is very little resemblance, in fact, between what I do and what my neighbours do, though we both produce food.

And so, I stand and watch in awe as the harvester roars by and the trucks fill up with grain.

And he marvels at the variety and quality of my summer squash and beans.

And we find our common ground in the sun, wind and rain that rules us both.

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