Celebrating Sconnie: Instilling an inclusive love of place

Although I’ve studied Spanish (on and off, ahem) since high school, only this year did I learn the powerful word, querencia. From the word querer, which means ‘to want’ or ‘to love’, querencia translates as ‘fondness’.

However, it’s also a deeper concept, one with no English translation; a concept of belonging, a love of home, an attachment to place. It’s also a driver of environmental stewardship as people learn respect from a young age for the place they were raised in – and so become stewards of it. This respect flows over into human relationships, as folks work together to protect the heritage of all.

Querencia clicked with me, because at Foxhead Regenerative Agriculture Project, we are working to regenerate community around our local food and farms; to build the proverbial village that it takes to raise a farm. We aim to help folks realize that they not only belong in this farm village, but are an essential part of it, and can take pride in their role of farm steward.

Because about nine-tenths of Wisconsin’s population is of northern-European [mostly German] descent, I checked if German has a similar word that might resonate more with our community. It does: heimat. Literally, it means “home”, but it also has that untranslatable, deeper significance of belonging, sentimental connection, and pride of place. It’s a word that everyone must define for themselves, which invokes strong feelings for a wide-range of German-speakers, and that politicians have utilized to promote exclusion and anti-immigration agendas.

But if FoxRAP is going to change the way we relate to our food and farms, we can’t be exclusionary.

Exclusion, and its sidekick, exploitation, is how agriculture has always been done in the US – from dislocating indigenous people for white settler farms, to slavery, to decades of USDA discrimination. As of the last Census of Agriculture in 2017, 99 percent of Wisconsin’s farmers are white.

The glaring red flags, like farm closures, suicides, soil erosion, and polluted water, mean that how agriculture has always been done, isn’t working. To regenerate agriculture, farms, and community, we must change the status quo. Exclusion and exploitation need to end.

So, as is often the case, my research to answer questions creates more questions, like:

How do we foster a love of place, community, and belonging while also being inclusive and welcoming?

What could be a role model – something many Sconnies have deep love and great passion for?

What really brings us together?

Clearly, the answer to that is our beloved Green Bay Packers.

Photo credit: wearegreenbay.com

But why? What inspires so many to run around in cheese wedge hats? To fanatically travel to or carve out time each week to watch their games? To live and breathe green and gold?

And it is not just Packers and football. Soccer creates diehard fans around the world. People identify with the players, the team is their family, and how well their team is doing determines their mood that week.

Sports are also racially diverse and welcoming to newcomers. The Packers roster changes every year, but Packer loyalty never wavers. New players are welcomed, initiated to the customs of the team and city, the skills they bring are a new source of pride. They are not outsiders, they are one of us.

The truth is that fandom is ingrained in us as children: sports are often a family tradition and we have special childhood memories with particular teams.

Photo credit: UW Badgers

Our society builds social life around sports – food, alcohol, parties, marching bands and pep rallies – so we develop a positive set of associations around them. It makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves.

And so, more questions:

What is stopping us from celebrating food and farms this way?

Why don’t we ingrain love for these essentialities in our children?

Where are the weekly farm fests?

I propose that it’s time to regenerate community traditions rooted in our querencia, our heimat, our Sconnie Love. It’s time to unite around food and farms, to unearth the cultural foodways so dutifully curated by our ancestors. Time to celebrate our farmers the way we celebrate our football players, with our children and our neighbors, in small, everyday ways, and large, fanatical, cheesehead ways. It’s time for land-based revelry of which we are all stewards – where we all belong.

Photo credit: Wisconsin Life

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