The Backyard Economist - Issue. 1
The Pear Standard
by Harriet Fasenfest

Welcome to the first installment of the Backyard Economist.

As a disclaimer let me be clear, I am not an academic. I was never taught the principles of economic science. I forgo the requirement because I do not think it is necessary. In fact, having no academic training is sometimes preferred – it keeps us open to the possibilities. These columns will be the result of my personal investigations into the organic principles of economics as I understand them.

I believe we all have personal economies – checks and balances that align with our truths or not; systems by which to measure the quantity, quality, stewardship and distribution of the things we hold dear. Unfortunately, we rarely take the time to consider them. At best, this is a missed opportunity at worst, a discredit to ourselves and the world we live in.

Since time before time, economic systems, geopolitical positioning and market forces, not enlightened social ideologies, have driven the political will of a nation. Moreover, time before time has shined on the few over the many. This historical pattern is the precursor of the trickle-down economy and has failed, by broad sweeping standards, to lift all boats. In fact, if you take religious doctrine as an indicator (which I do for historical context only) the references to charity, the meek, and the “least of these” exist because of this failure. The heart has always known the folly of the sword. And it is greed not charity that makes the deadly seven list.

As such it is somewhat fool hearty to ignore the world of economics as being beyond our scope whether it be personal, local or global. Yet we assume these systems to be a hard science beyond our comprehension. We leave it to the “professionals”. We trust others and the stock market to look out for our interests and the interest of our world. We are lulled by the lures of modern life. We are indifferent, intimidated. This need not be the case. Nor should we assume that the only avenue for understanding or changing the system is to enter politics, government or academia. Rather, I believe the way to start a shift in traditional economic systems is to re-evaluate our own in deeper more meaningful ways; in everyday ways, in our backyards and homes.

There is a logical starting point to this investigation - that which we hold dear will be our most valuable asset, that which is objectionable, a liability. For me, my most valuable asset is my family and my time with them. After that, it is a healthy natural environment and a scaled relationship to the world that is in keeping to my human form and functions. By scaled relationship I mean food and water systems that are local and in keeping with responsible stewardship. I mean buildings and cities that are not so large as to render the natural world insignificant. I mean a relationship to time and commitments that are sane and sensible and recognizable to the world of tides and seasons. I mean a sense of community that is neither designed nor forced but the result of shared experiences, time and need.

I could go on from there but it is a beginning. Your list will be different in degrees great and small. Regardless, the moments (interactions both personal and communal) and matter (material goods) we have in our life will have value only to the degree they hold our truths. Conversely, moments and matter will hold little value when they are not aligned with our truths. And if evaluating and weeding through all these considerations seems like an inordinate amount of nit picking and second guessing it need not be. The wisdom and sense of it all that can arise organically and be found as close as your own backyard. Or so it was for me.

There is a much longer narrative behind the history of my pears but I will save it for another issue. Suffice to say a seismic shift occurred in me one afternoon as I watched them drop and rot. Today I understand my place in the world differently. Today I hold my pears up as a measure by which almost all other moments and matter can be compared to. The pears from my old backyard tree are free, plentiful, get no pesticides, need only a few paces to retrieve and are home processed to supply food for the year round. They are part of the family garden and home, part of, and in scale with, the natural world and can be shared with my neighbors and friends. They are the new gold standard – the pear standard.

Of course I am being somewhat dramatic but it is true that my backyard has led me to many truths about a world of checks and balances and about my place in it. It had led me to re-evaluate the concept of assets and liabilities and what a personal economy might mean. And it was from those earliest investigations that Preserve and The Backyard Economist has evolved and from that backyard that new thoughts will arise – thoughts on a new economy, a true-cost economy, a back-yard economy. I look forward to sharing them. I hope they hold some value.