Choose Life or Death

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By Patricia Tompkins

I just heard on National Public Radio this quote from a Chinese entrepreneur who became an organic farmer. “By chasing after money, we have forgotten the essence of life.” For me, the essence of life is connection to the land and to each other because without the first we cannot live and without the second we cannot be fully human.

Since 1983 when I disconnected from the power company after demonstrating against the nuclear power plant being built across the bay from where I lived in Maine, I have sought to live in solidarity with the slower, simpler, earth-based traditions around the world in order to improve the quality of my life and a more sustainable future for generations to come.

For a time (7 years) I got rid of my car and as a single parent was raising two small boys, but I found creative ways to get around rural Maine with a bicycle built for two and a child seat on the fender. My neighbor said I looked like a mother duck with her ducklings.

Since moving to the mountains of North Carolina 22 years ago, I have been fortunate to continue the lifestyle started in Maine and Vermont (but now with a vehicle). I try to live in direct relationship to the land as much as possible and take responsibility for where the things I need come from in the form of energy, water, food, waste (no piped-in utilities). I am fortunate to have the land held in trust and to farm using traditional and permaculture methods as much as possible, keeping my produce profits below $5,000 in order to be exempted from the USDA Organic Certification Process.

Since becoming solely self-employed as a farmer, I made the decision to become a war tax resister in protest to our government’s policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan. In the years that I owed self-employment tax, I wrote a letter in my tax return explaining why I was withholding the percent for the military.

In the last few years, the money I owed was taken from my stimulus check and presently it is being levied monthly from my Social Security check at the rate of $58. The total owed is $330.

Because I feel that the most effective way to effect change is in our lifestyle and cherishing the values of traditional localization, I hope to contribute to healing the land, myself, and the greater community.

“Wanting good government in their states, they first established order in their families; wanting order in the home, they first disciplined themselves.”

– Confucius