Farming for the cultivation of human beings

Sign that says "Cucumber" in English and Farsi.
 on May 30, 2024
Michael Hudson

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” This intriguing statement comes to us from Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher. His words encourage me to remember that production goals are not the be-all and end-all of farming, but that it matters how we do things and who we are in the process.

The Common Table Farm came through a tough season last year. We faced a funding cliff that threatened to close our farm; it was an incredibly stressful time! Thankfully, with the support of many generous people, we have been able to secure enough funds for another season. We’re thrilled to be able to continue growing food for folks in need of support and nurturing hands-on learning for kids and youth.

As I gear up for the coming season, I thought I’d turn to our core volunteers to hear about what they find meaningful about the farm and share their thoughts with you.

Andrew never shies away from a tough job: he will take on flipping compost or broad-forking, two tasks that require some muscle and plenty of fortitude. The first word that comes to his mind about our farm is “wholesome.” Andrew finds the farm refreshing and life-giving; he enjoys meeting good people here and finds the work satisfying.

Kristen is our intrepid learner – new to farming and eager to learn every step of the way. She appreciates the farm for what she describes as “the beautiful urban farm environment.”

Our farm is indeed a wonderful oasis. This green space is a precious gift within the density of Toronto. As city dwellers, it’s common to spend a lot of time indoors. Our farm offers an encounter with the daily shifts of weather, sunlight and temperature. Here we meet numerous plants, animals, insects and birds that populate our city. I have seen time and again just how healing this encounter is for many people. They are revived and invigorated as they spend time outdoors. As our produce packer extraordinaire Bishop Patrick White has observed, working directly with the soil deepens the experience of meaningful work.

For other volunteers, the word “community” stands out. Suzanne and Marianne are both incredibly dedicated volunteers who have been hanging out with us since 2022. They honed in on our ethos of growing not only food but community. We experience this at the farm, growing both individually and collectively as we plant, maintain the garden, and harvest. As Masanobu Fukuoka astutely observes, we are not only farming plants. We plant seeds for new friendships and connections, we contribute to each other’s “maintenance” through weekly conversations, and we harvest the fruit of all this collective work – a sense of well-being, purpose and fulfillment.

Natalie, who volunteers with her son Ben, finds the farm “supportive.” It brings to my mind the many ways we try to farm in a responsible manner, providing literal supports for climbing plants, avoiding tillage to support the soil’s health, and not using pesticides to protect the earth. I am heartened to hear that the farm also supports people! We can each find welcome here. The farm provides a nurturing scaffold where everyone belongs. Not only that, it is “fun” – Ben’s word for the farm! Having a good time is indispensable and not to be underestimated!

Which leads us to Mary’s descriptor for the farm: “gratitude.” Mary started volunteering with us after participating in a compost tea workshop. The farm certainly is a place of thanksgiving. We thrive because of the contributions of many, whether it’s a foundation that can provide funding, someone who can donate a financial gift or flower seeds, a volunteer who can tackle a thistle patch, a summer worker who helps to train others, agency partners who lend equipment, a bee pollinating our eggplant row, microbes who keep our soil healthy, or the dragonfly who graces us with her beauty…

Gratitude is around us at the farm, in every seed that germinates. It culminates when we harvest to share fresh food with others, knowing it will be enjoyed around their table. There is so much to be grateful for when we realize our dependence on each other, the earth and the Spirit that draws us into this collective work.

I know that I am being cultivated as a human being at the Common Table Farm. I am grateful for this place and the people who make it what it is!

To learn more about the farm or to support its work, visit


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