Over the past 5 months I’ve been interning on an organic farm about 30 minutes out of town. It’s 2 years old and around 5 acres, total. The couple who own and operate the farm are young, spirited, and passionate–always happy to be outside, rain or shine.
I’ve always been interested in local food systems. My B.S. in Sustainable Development had a large emphasis the importance of local, high quality produce and self-sufficiency… they even offered an Agroecology concentration (I chose to concentrate in Community Development). After a brief stint at an sustainable agroforestry organization in the jungles of Puerto Rico, I decided it was time to put my hands to good use and see what farming was all about.
The first month was cold. Sitting above 3,333ft above sea level makes for a reluctant Spring. I spent my days there starting seed and replanting sprouted plants in greenhouses and high tunnels. It was repetitive and tedious work, yet I was hopefully for a lush season in full bloom.
Once it started to warm, the transplanting began. Days bent over against the hot sun, carefully placing each plant into the rocky mountainous soil and watering each one in.
As the days grew longer and the work more physically demanding, I really began feeling the breakdown both mentally and physically. Between splitting my time in too many directions and feeling the weight of a body in recovery, I began becoming reluctant–the energy and passion I had had dimmed.
I have begun dropping my hours back, staggering my days out at the farm. Upon reflection of my experience, I have learned a lot. Most surprisingly, about myself (cue the cliche).
1. I have SO much more respect for farmers. A farming market does little to show the time, energy, and effort put into farmwork. In a nutshell: it is HARD. It is a true full-time job full of unexpected set backs (i.e. a blighted potato field), interesting obstacles (i.e. wrangling goats out of the garlic field), and truly humbling experiences.
2. I am not cut out for farming (but would love a garden). I knew this going in… kind of. But its become clear now that farming just isn’t for me. The long, physically demanding hours on a body in recovery from systemic issues makes it difficult and often frustrating to do.
3. I’m more comfortable in leadership positions. As a farm hand, I was told what to do, every step of the way (as I should have been, as I don’t know anything about it.) BUT… I felt more comfortable when newer people came in and I got to “manage” a task and work along side them. I’m not a very detail-oriented person, as it would turn out.
5. Keeping honeybees would be pretty damn cool. Ok. I’ve kind of fallen in love with bees. The way they move, interact, work together, everything! They’re pretty self-contained and awesome for plants everywhere ;).
6. Nutrition and gardening are my passions. I am still unsure of how to actualize these passions, but I know what they are. That’s half the battle right there… right?