Red Fox Farm


10 • Reflections

Volume 10, Issue 02
April 8, 2024

Carolyn and Johnny Davis have lived most of their lives on an 80 acre farm in Cotton Plant, Mississippi. It’s a beautiful place - peaceful and functional. My grandfather bought the land after high school, and says he just liked the look of it. He lived in a barn while going to college at Mississippi State until he was drafted into the army for the Vietnam war. When he got out, the farm was a place for my grandparents to get to know each other again and recover from the confusion, pain, and destruction of the war. In turn, they tended to the land, its water, and their cows. They could name all the trees - could tell you that black walnuts are toxic to farm animals but oak acorns are good for cows in moderation. On this farm, they raised two kids, five dogs, a horse, three cats, and hundreds of small Angus calves.

Though the land gave them spiritual and physical stability, it did not give them economic stability. As fewer people were expected to produce the same amount of food for the nation, politics and policy also financially devalued farming. As they aged, my grandparents got jobs off of the land for more stable sources of income. Yet farming continued to be their great joy and struggle.

I grew up playing on Red Fox Farm, snuggling farm dogs and grooming cows. Over the years, my grandparents advised my brother and I to get as much education as possible. They hoped for our lives to be freer from financial uncertainty and the stigma of rural living, wanted our outcomes to be less physically tied to uncontrollable land. They told us that there was a world to see “out there,” While they meant traveling to places they dreamed of, I took it to mean that the farm had nothing left to teach me.

I went to college and met amazing mentors. They helped me understand the gift of deeply knowing plants and animals through their contexts, stories, and even personalities. I learned that a life lived with the land can bestow these gifts, but the academy cannot. Yet in the environmental academy, farming is a large and rising field. Yale’s Environment and Divinity Schools both have their own farms on campus. Rewilding, agroecology, and permaculture are serious academic areas of study.

As my grandparents age and can no longer take care of their cows, my father wants to turn the farmland into a native flower nursery. My brother is getting a graduate degree in agricultural engineering. I’m studying animism and the relationship between spiritual and ecological knowledge at Yale. My grandparents are going through the blistering, frustrating, humbling, joyful process of aging. Someday, they will die, as we all will. I hope that when that happens, an agrarian spirit that values farming and tangible, inescapable relationships to the land of Red Fox Farm lives on.