The Fallow Year

The Fallow Year

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One of the few things I remember learning at school was a land rotation technique that restores farming land by leaving it fallow. Continual farming of the same land in the same way gradually depletes its growing yield – unless it is left alone for awhile, to restore itself. This is an idea that’s always stuck, for me.

This year marks the 4th year of the Dandelion Foundation – and we embarked on it without the material resources for the programme of events we had run in previous years.

At first, I found having no resources really frustrating. Now, I am enjoying the opportunity it has presented, and thinking about all the ways that this ‘space’ can be used to achieve things.

By not organising any major events this year, we have discovered something very useful. We have learnt to make projects happen and to develop leadership without us having to do a huge amount of work. We have learnt to collaborate with other events and people who do the things we used to do, to achieve our aims. We are learning to decentralise, and to embed our operations into the community – which makes it much more sustainable and scalable, in the long term.

Learning how to make things happen without doing much has been our greatest learning, in recent times. Next time we have resources for projects, we will be much more effective, as a result of our restorative period of ‘non-doing’.

This reminds me of the power of doing nothing. From saying nothing in a conversation, to taking a sabbatical from work, there are many positive applications of creating more space, rather than filling the space.

We could achieve much more by doing much less. Enjoy fallow periods. We need to promote the concept that an idea can get better by just giving it time to mature on its own; that taking time to simply consider and observe is a valuable act in itself.

We live in an insane culture of continual doing – with little or no understanding of how the power of just ‘being’ can positively impact long-term outcomes. Daily, weekly, monthly output is so easy to measure – and yet, the void can produce so much. I wonder how we might measure the ‘immeasurable’ – or if we even need to. After all, a farmer doesn’t dig up a seed every day, to check its growth. A farmer won’t even work a whole field, year on year; knowing that better results come from a period of recovery. A farmer recognises the value of letting things be.

In the pursuit of moment-to-moment productivity, we are losing the intensive power of the best moments.

To the power of nothing.


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  1. Philip Surry says

    This post has come at just the right time, it’s remided me. Thank you Marc !

  2. I love the analogy of farmers leaving soil fallow for recovery!

  3. So true Marc, we spend all of our time in the doing, taking no notice or even daring to go into being. Yet, when we spend time in bing, exploring, playing, wondering about being, such as empathy, listening, gratitude, we are changed forever. Our time in being changes what we do positively, and in turn changes the quality, depth, understanding of what we do, which is felt by those who are recipients of what we do. e.g. our loved ones, our friends, our work colleagues. Colin

  4. Love it. It reminds me one Ted talk by Manoush Zomorodi called ‘How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas’

  5. Great post, Marc. (Same first name & spelling as my son’s.)

    This brings to mind a small field that I’ll be planting next spring. The ground was tilled a couple of times in previous years, but never planted. This year it was rototilled, I bought seeds, then decided I needed to add topsoil. That project became more complicated than anticipated and planting was postponed until 2019. I just finished – once again – clearing the field of weeds and grass. Perhaps the delay will prove beneficial in the long run.

    As you state, this goes against the cultural environment of constant doing. Love the reminder that projects have a life of their own. Thanks for a good read!

    mo charbonneau

  6. I am timelessly reminded of Eckhart Tolle saying, “It is Stillness that will Save the World.”

    This short autobiographical sketch is my true story about the astounding lifechanging benefits of doing “nothing.”

  7. Tony Phillips says

    We always used to be human beings but somehow forgot and became human doings

  8. Paul Chambers says

    Good enough for Glastonbury, good enough for Dandelion… those who til the earth know a thing or too about recovery and growth.

  9. If I remember right modern way is not even to till the soil as this disturbs and kills some of the important microbes that support healthy soil.

    Just rake a little, open ‘the soil’ / ‘the grass root’ up so the seeds find some space and then, leave them to it. Most don’t need any external feeding and certainly don’t kill those things off that don’t look like what you expect to grow, just support and offer the seeds a good chance to grow.

    This is how I would farm or in fact help to grow leaders and sustainable systems.

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