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Ninety-three years of doing things his way

We buried my father, John Watson, on the farm last weekend. It turned out to be more of a celebration of his 93 radical years than a mourning of their end. Like so many things about him, his funeral was homemade and idiosyncratic. While his worn out body returns to the soil, he lives on in the many other businesses – including ours – that have started on the farm and bear the mark of his original, challenging but gentle nature.

The American poet and farmer Wendell Berry was beside John’s bed when he died. Though frustrated by our collective failure to address environmental issues, John never lost faith in our ability to find the solutions. His hope really did spring eternal. This poem was my tribute to him; more for the hope it ends with than the frustration at the start.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front (excerpt)

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbours and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched
in a card and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees every thousand years.

Wendell Berry



    1 Year 5 Months

    Achingly sad to loose one’s Daddy. I am so sorry, but how lucky he was to be so loved to the very end and beyond,

    0 Reply

    Maggie 73

    1 Year 5 Months

    Although you will miss your dad sorely you will have many happy memories of him. I am sure he must have been very proud of his hard working family, a family that has stuck with their principles.
    Condolences to all the family.

    0 Reply

    Green Jan

    1 Year 5 Months

    Loved the home-made coffin with giant pumpkin and other vegetables painted on it.
    Disagree with Wendall Berry that man cannot destroy what he has not discovered. Loss of boidiversity means that many species have been lost before they have been discovered. Otherwise enjoyed that reading especially the bit about planting Sequoia. That's exactly what Leonard Elmhirst did at Dartington and Fingle wood and the trees are now ready for harvest.
    Condolences to all the family. What a long and full life John had and left behind a large and supportive family - a tremendous legacy.

    0 Reply


    1 Year 5 Months

    So grateful for and to this gentle, grounded and insightful man, and to his choices.
    A farmer, visionary and great gradfather whom I never met, but whose energy fuels mine daily - that's a heck of a legacy. Lovely photos. Thank you. 💚🌀🌿

    0 Reply

    Guy Singh-Watson

    Self-confessed veg nerd, Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 55,000 customers a week. Guy is an opinionated and admired figure in the world of organic farming, who still spends more time in the fields than in the boardroom. Twice awarded BBC Radio 4 Farmer of the Year, Guy is passionate about sharing with others the organic farming and business knowledge he has accumulated over the last three decades. His weekly veg box newsletters connect customers to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about. In June 2018, Guy handed over the reins of Riverford to its staff, choosing employee ownership as the model that will protect Riverford's ethical values forever and ensure the security of its employees.

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