There is an old essay written back in the late-50s by C.W. Mills titled, "On Intellectual Craftsmanship." I have wanted to write about it for all of time here on "Border Gardening" as it is from this essay "The Buffalo Horticulture Project" takes its inspiration. But it is complicated to write about. First off, the essay is written to graduate students in social science, not to gardeners. Secondly, I am always criticized for making things too intellectualized; and so finding a way to talk about the essay as a spirit of work, not sociology, becomes intellectual and I can never narrate through the problem.
...social science is the practice of a craft. A man at work on problems of substance, he is amongst those who are quickly made impatient and weary by elaborate discussions of method-and-theory-in-general; so much of it interrupts his proper studies. (195)
For the longest time I read the essay as about "How to do sociology." It was a methods text given to me by a professor very interested in the work I was doing - he had never had a student write gardening and landscape stories as sociological analysis before. I don't think I came to realize until 6 months ago that he never gave me the book to think about sociology. He gave it to me to think about craftsmanship and study, the questions I was really raising in my work - questions of value.
Although Buffalo Horticulture has been around since 2001, since I left the family business, it has gone through many phases of life. There were the early years where I was still tied with the old world. Then there was the years of Peter and Emily. It was different then. I wasn't the designer, Emily was. Then there was the graduate school years where things slowed down in production. There was this moment of fantasy about being a working-class scholar - but no one wanted me to be a professor. From this emerged what I titled five years later, "The Buffalo Horticulture Project," - my life's work. I study and practice.
...the most admirable thinkers within the scholarly community you have chosen to join do not split their work from their lives. They seem to take both too seriously to allow such disassociation, and they want to use each for the enrichment of the other. Of course, such a split is the prevailing convention among men in general, deriving, I suppose, from the hollowness of the work which men in general now do. But you will have recognized that as a scholar you have the exceptional opportunity of designing a way of living which will encourage the habits of good workmanship. Scholarship is a choice of how to live as well as a choice of career; whether he knows it or not, the intellectual workman forms his own self as he works toward the perfection of his craft; to realize his own potentialities, and any opportunities that come his way, he constructs a character which has as its core the qualities of a good workman.
I will finish saying this:
Buffalo Horticulture builds and cares for people and the landscape.
It is a way of living.
There are a lot of people who chose to live this life.
It has a spirituality, an atmosphere.
It is a way to find satisfactions
in an occupation that is not typically "of high value."
I am not the only one in the green industry who lives this way
Although there are several.
We are definitely a minor literature.
I am the only one with a graduate degree in social theory
and so I know others who share the same commitment and life choices
But aren't necessarily able to find the same kind of voice I do.
In the horticulture and landscape professions right now
There is an unspoken of divide.
So much political conversation about "The Essentials"...
I think it is helping us form a group identity
Often just lost in the word "landscaper."
The struggle with an ambiguous State definition of "essential"
makes for a unique anxiety;
One that clearly has concerns different from "business"
and more with "life."
Landscape designer and Proprietor of Buffalo Horticulture