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  • Writer's pictureJosey Goggin

Standing in Silence

What do you do when a piece of your family history, the farm upon which generations of your ancestors had lived and died, pouring their every effort at survival into that land, is put up for sale?

Though there was a time when homes were separated from financial assets, we now live in a world where many who own their homes view them as their primary financial backstop. As goes the economy and the housing market, so goes their financial stability. Sometimes the loss is simply bad luck, other times it is due to family disagreements or dissolution. No matter what the cause, the impact is far reaching, cutting connections to our history, to the way our community functioned, and to how we move forward.

In Cornwall, England, a young man, David, wanted to be the person who carried on the family agrarian tradition when a relative decided to sell the family farm. But that relative sold the farm to someone outside the family. David thought that dream was done and gone.

A couple years later the farm unexpectedly came up for public auction. David gathered his resources and showed up at the auction to try to get the family farm back.

He was not alone.

For each of the two hundred other farmers in attendance, purchasing the farm would mean more land to work, more production, perhaps a greater level of financial security. The fact that the farmers had taken time out of their normal schedule to attend the auction made it clear the farm was desirable and acquiring it would lead to more individual prosperity for the new owner.

David and his father believed their efforts would be for naught, that they would be outbid, and lose the farm for a second time. Still when the auction opened, they placed their bid.

And something extraordinary happened.

The other two hundred farmers in attendance stood in silence.[1]

Not a single person spoke up, or placed another bid.[2] They stood in solidarity with their community and a young man who wanted to carry his family’s part in it forward.

I find this action profoundly moving. A group of people dismissed typical conventions about individual economic feasibility and property, to help another individual, and the community as a whole. They refused to support the bank auctioning the property, or the system by which the farm could be reassigned.[4] Shared values and priorities give us a way to move forward powerfully and together.

How we find those people, and how we act in concert, are questions I mull over nearly every day.

[1] No. 52: Silence and a form of No. 163: Stand-in

[2] This action was a variation of No. 135: Popular Non-obedience and No. 126: Boycott of government departments, agencies, and other bodies in that they could have, but chose not to take part in the auction.

[3] No. 121: Refusal of public support


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