You may have heard this from Masanobu Fukuoka, the visionary Japanese farmer:

"The purpose of agriculture is not the production of food, but the perfection of human beings"

The trajectory of many martial arts and meditative traditions culminates in a settled, food-producing country life. The lifelong study of balance in physical and mental action can be seen as also a training ground for providing for one's needs in old age, sans Medicare, nursing homes, or intact family structures.

I remember Cuban Taoist Maestro Ernesto, of Playa Chiquita in Costa Rica, walking out to his patio to dig turmeric root to add to the rice he cooked for his guests one day. He would trek deep into the jungle to sites of abandoned farms, returning laden with fruit and nuts from their overgrown orchards.

What about those of us who live partly or completely in the industrialized west? Chained to a computer, desk and phone, or to the drivers' seat of a motorcar. I write to you from the city, recovering from an injury which was exacerbated by long hours spent sitting. I recently joined the YWCA, whose sauna, while wonderful, is still a far cry from the dark wood-fired saunas of private country residences, where sweat is accompanied by song.

Those of us afflicted by a sometimes unreflective quest for perfection would be wise to recognize that most of our romanticized self-sufficient mystics contract their production of grains and calories to younger strong backs. Recently, a dear friend pointed me toward the japanese concept of wabi-sabi, an aesthetic guideline for which embraces the imperfection and transience of things and forms. Imperfection is where it's at. Farming well will continue to be difficult; this weeks' Farm Bill is not a working plan for wholesale change. Those farmers who want an insurance policy, who want to see their kids go to college, will continue to be enticed by subsidies and direct payments for cotton, corn, wheat and soy. We want it all: security and integrity.

Still, I am emboldened by the work being done to further this purpose; the end is not the goal. As an emblem of so many whose hearts carry forward a visionary culture based in agriculture, this week I celebrate the hardworking community of people at Dungeness, Washington. I had opportunity to spend a chunk of the fall harvest season there between salmon-filled river and fields of carrots, and participate in the opening of a new community space at Nash's Corner. A ragged old dairy building, partly remodeled, growing slowly but surely, toward dreams of a perfect kitchen, market and theatre. Filled with imperfect, honorable people.