Crop Mob: What happens when you get what you work for

I got lucky.  Two Octobers ago I sat at my desk at ECO, barely one month into the new job, still adjusting to a living situation that had me alone most of the time.  One of the Piedmont Biofarm folks – Jack – came into the office and asked if I wanted to help pick some sweet potatoes after work.  A group of folks was on their way over to help out with the harvest.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Crop Mob was about to move a big piece of dirt.

That dirt was me.

One of the reasons Kristin and I moved out of the city was because we felt that we had exhausted what we could do in Wilmington. The city was and probably still is unreceptive to the kinds of things we were tying to do. Most of what we started got some traction early on, but once we set them out on their own, folks quickly lost interest and things folded.  We became babysitters when what we wanted to be were peers – peers empowering other people to step up and get things done.

Worst of all was becoming a disappointed babysitter, cleaning up the messes of people who knew better but continued to act as if anarchism meant you never had to be responsible.

So yeah, Crop Mob came and got me and shook the Wilmington right out of me.  I simply had to tag along, give it all that I knew how to do and watch as other strong people filled in the holes, making the project a fluid and replicable and respectable entity.

And with the strong people comes the strong growth and with that comes the growing pains and the discussions about how best to proceed with this entity that we have created.  For better or worse, all the media attention will fade.  When that happens, some of the sexy will wash off and we will be left with a few fronts to engage.

1 – The original work area of the original Crop Mob group.  Do we split into individual county groups or do we continue to function as we have as a three county group?  My take has always been that we stay together as a three county group.  The camaraderie of engaging with my peers from Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Pittsboro is enough to make me hold out and not want to dissolve into smaller groupings.  Crop Mob events are some of the only times I get to interact with this larger agrarian culture, and I feel like the benefit to the group of this mixing outweighs the slight possibility of the group becoming watered down with long distance commuters.

2 – The rapidly expanding Crop Mob universe.  We are looking at facilitating the creation of at least 20 new Crop Mob groups in the US.  As these groups get established, more will follow from their examples.  How do we best maintain the core principles of the idea and replicate it without micromanaging every aspect of each groups’ formation? Again, for better or worse, we have to let the idea evolve on its own and accept that sometimes it won’t work out in the ways we might want or expect. We have to trust that we, by our own boots-in-the-dirt examples, have created an idea that needs minimal governance and minimal tweaking in order to accomplish work and build a community.


About Trace

Trace lives in Durham, NC with their partner Kristin. They were joined by baby Tennessee Lynn in April 2012 and baby Hazel in May 2015. Trace is not a talker. Trace also thinks it is a little weird to talk about himself in the third person.
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One Response to Crop Mob: What happens when you get what you work for

  1. Haruka says:

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and your thoughts. I too ponder about the 2 you pointed out along with how we can get more farms/farmers involved. looking forward to sharing ideas on Sunday.