Rick and Karola got into farming because of their concern about social, environmental, and political problems, and the ways they are very much interconnected. Farming offers a way of responding to many issues, especially environmental concerns.
In college, Rick majored in Environmental Studies and learned a lot about political, social and environmental issues and the connections between them. He basically got a very good education concerning the problems of the world. There weren’t a lot of solutions offered. It became obvious that our system is unsustainable. Big industrial farming uses mega energy and chemicals, and causes pollution, loss of topsoil, and a lot of health issues. Local, small-scale farming seemed like one way that Rick and Karola could make a change—by growing food and taking care of the land. And it also offered a job. Coming out of college they needed to make a living. Farming was work that they could do that was in alignment with their values.
Environmental issues on a global level are the biggest issues for them. “We need the environment to support us as a species, and not only us but all of the other species on the earth—as well as future generations.” In order to try to make a change, they are making a change themselves. Their avenue is to sustainably produce locally grown foods for themselves and for their community. Rick thinks it’s a mistake to underestimate the power of one’s seemingly small contributions and changes in the face of such complicated and challenging problems. Each of us can do what we can in our own small way, making our own small contributions in the face of such huge problems. To make positive changes, we can each do the little part that we are able to do. Collectively this can have major ripple effects.
Karola and Rick are supplying people with healthy, nutritious food and, at the same time, contributing to building a more local and regional food system. This they believe will help make our community more resilient and sustainable in the long run.
Karola has a local job in county government, doing environmental permitting for wetlands, shore-lands, water, and recycling. That helps stabilize their family’s financial situation because, although the farm does provide a substantial part of their family’s income, it’s difficult to make a living farming.
Rick and Karola believe it’s an ethical and moral imperative that we take care of the earth, which is our home. They value compassion very highly and wish for everyone the ability to live in a safe environment and have healthy food. They are trying to live in line with what they believe. They think it’s very important to live in a way that’s not harmful to others to the best of their ability. And if it’s possible to help, they believe it is imperative to do what they can to help, recognizing the interconnectedness of all living things and our responsibility to future generations.
Their farming mentors John and Jane Fisher-Merritt, who gave Rick and Karola a wonderful opportunity to farm with them and basically taught them how to farm, are a source of great inspiration. They have also been great sources of information. The Dalens have been inspired by John and Jane’s lifestyle and values and farming—the way they’ve connected their values with what they do.
John and Jane introduced them to the writings of Wendell Berry, which have also been a source of inspiration. Other sources of inspiration include Vandana Shiva, a physicist and activist in India, whom they heard speak, as well as Martin and Atina Diffley and so many other great farmers. Jesus, Buddha, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and many others have also inspired their work and lives.
Rick and Karola have been greatly supported by their parents. Sure, their parents have questioned their choices and lifestyle, and yet they have always been supportive. This support has been so foundational that it is almost easy to forget and take for granted.
As Karola and Rick have been inspired and nourished by so many others, they are committed to feeding and nourishing our local community, planting seeds and growing crops of food and justice.
Interviewed by Susan Mullenix