Despite the long darkness of the day, for farmers all over the Northern Hemisphere the solstice means a return to daylight. Now our days begin to lengthen and the cold may not seem as harsh. Rather than being a time of dormancy, this is the time to reconnect with friends and spend time with family.
In ancient societies, festivals happened in accord with agricultural practices. Now is a time of leisure when all the crops have been harvested (except in California where the harvest never seems to end) and food put by for the cold season. Long ago, this was the time to slaughter livestock and make fermented drinks. All these things made it the perfect time for parties!
And so, we approach the day of shortest light in anticipation of celebrations, and longer days.
North of Dublin a large circular mound was built during Neolithic times. One narrow passage leads to a vaulted chamber. There are no windows or other openings in the mound. For a few days each year, the rising winter sun lines up to the passageway and a shaft of sunlight breaks through the darkness. At that moment, the vaulted room glows in a warm earthy golden hue as a promise of the light and life of spring to come.
When I started working at CIRS, I often felt like I was in the darkness. I held on to the sometimes crazy optimism that eventually, if I could just hunker down and keep looking ahead, the light would come. Now, at the 2012 solstice, we are seeing a glimmer of what is to come.
We have engaged a wonderful new group of board members, keeping hold of the longstanding ones who wish to continue working with us, and we have moved forward in our mission-driven work. This past year we completed research that can empower farm workers to assess their risk of heat illness at home, determined the feasibility of mobile food markets in rural regions, created a healthy eating toolkit for community health providers, developed on-farm wellness manuals, and worked on environmental justice policy and advocacy tools for residents of the East Coachella Valley.
We have only been able to do this with all of our many partners and financial supporters.
We are excited to move into 2013 with the goal of continuing our work to increase social justice in rural California for all residents, building sustainable communities based on a healthy agriculture. Foremost in our work will be marginalized populations. We will keep working toward our goals to strengthen social justice and increase the sustainability of California's rural communities.
I hope you will join us. Your financial support is important! It allows us to investigate issues that foundations and government agencies may balk at. It gives us the freedom to find out what challenges rural communities are facing.
I want to thank you all for all you have done and, look forward to the new days of CIRS.
Warm winter wishes,
And all of us at CIRS
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