As we head into the new year, my region begins its most productive and celebratory season. Now the height of citrus season, oyster harvests, gorgeous greens and multi-colored root veggies, we are also on the cusp of our Carnival season, starting on January 6th. It starts then because Carnival is a pre-Lenten celebration and that is the date of Feast of the Epiphany known in France as Le Jour des Rois and in Latin American countries as Dia de los Reyes Magos. Coincidentally, it is also the Maid of Orleans Joan of Arc’s birthday which is also celebrated in New Orleans with one of the most beautiful candelit parades on her day.
Parades and king cake parties will go on here until “Fat Tuesday” which is February 13th in 2018 and is the day before Ash Wednesday. That begins the Lenten countdown to Easter.
By the way, how many of you know that where Easter falls is based on the natural world?
First, find the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring (about March 21-22), on a calendar that lists basic astronomical data. Then look for the next full moon. Easter Sunday will then fall on the following Sunday.
The farmers markets have the same joyous Carnival attitude all winter here. Productivity does that. Satisfaction and anticipation can be seen in the faces of those behind their tables, with actual oohs and aahs from those spying those deep red Ponchatoula strawberries, or watching a senior walk to their car dwarfed by a bag of greens. Very similar to those presenting carnival tableaus from atop a float or those catching “throws” from below.
Having a sunny mild winter at the same time as a beautiful and convivial public celebration that lasts for weeks always strikes me as the best of luck that landed at my feet.
And it also reminds me how the work we do in farmers markets IS joyous and as good of a measure of the civic health of our places as public events like Carnival.
In this start of year post, I usually go on and on about the importance of markets and measurement and system thinking. If that appeals to you, you’ll find plenty of that in my archives.
But today, I just want to share what the godfather of place and stewardship, Wendell Berry wrote in his new book, “The Art of Loading Brush”:
It is a formidable paradox that in order to achieve the sort of limitlessness we have begun to call sustainability, whether in human life or the other life of the ecosphere, strict limits must be observed. Enduring structures of household and family life, or the life of the community or the life of the country, cannot be formed except within limits. We must not outdistance local knowledge and affection, or the capacities of local persons to pay attention to details, to the “minute particulars” only by which, William Blake thought, we can do good to one another.
Within limits, we can think of rightness of scale. When the scale is right, we can imagine completeness of form.
That, my friends, is my 2018 call to action. Capacity, scale, form. How we understand this concept for our work, especially now when so many outside actors strive to co-opt our language and mock our efforts as too small or too limiting is vital.
So you’ll find me talking about these three points all year, adding them to my 2017 exhortations specifically for market organizations (“Don’t hide the hard work” and “act like networks, not silos”) in all public presentations and posts here.
I hope to see many of you in person and to talk to more of you via (appropriate) technology.
And I hope your winter is joyous and productive.