We named our farm after a poem by the nineteenth-century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-color like a brinded cow;
For rosemoles in all stipple upon trout that swim
Fresh-firecoal chesnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced; fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange:
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
We named our farm Pied Beauty Farm because we love Hopkins’s sense of the perfection of “all things counter, original, spare, strange.” Pied and dappled are synonyms for speckled, spotted, and patched, so in praising God for “dappled things,” Hopkins challenges the well-established tradition of considering difference to be a sign of sickness, deformity, imperfection, or sin. The things that Hopkins describes (puffy clouds in a bright blue sky, splotches on a Holstein, blood-red dots on trout bellies) are beautiful not in spite of their spots, but because of them. Because each unique sky, cow or trout is spotted in its own particular way, the varied beauty of all these individual creations contributes to a beautiful, heterogeneous whole.
All these images appeal to us, but Hopkins’ recognition of the beauty of a diversified farm landscape, one “pieced and plotted: field, fallow, and plow,” especially inspires us. Even without ever seeing American-style corn and soybean monoculture as a point of contrast to the farms he knew, Hopkins understood that the nineteenth-century English countryside was beautiful because of its patchwork quality. Beauty isn’t always indicative of goodness or health, but Hopkins’ notion of pied beauty overlaps neatly with a more sustainable and a more tasty approach to agriculture than intensive monoculture. Everyone who has taste-tested a “perfect” supermarket tomato against a Green Zebra or a Red Delicious apple against a Cox Orange Pippin knows the goodness to be found in variety and particularity.
Our farm aims at the pied, dappled, variegated beauty that Hopkins describes in several ways. We are dividing a roundup-ready soybean field into several organic vegetable garden plots and pastures. Our plan is to provide these plots to recent immigrants to this country and refugees to help them start their own farmstand business or CSA. Pied beauty also suggests the richness of cultural diversity that we hope to support and celebrate as people from various agricultural and culinary traditions share their expertise and produce.