Journal Entry 06-01-2012:

As I sit at the farm table munching on homegrown homemade veggies alone, I look over the landscape after a hard rain, listen to the bugs and frogs, see a cardinal atop a tree. After a short time of being out of the city, all my fears are replaced by gratitude. “I can’t believe I made it here. I am so lucky!” is all I keep thinking. “Here” being free, in Nature, work I love, debt free, few obligations or possessions to worry about. I keep reminding myself not to think about someday this or that, but that this is IT! Experience is the ultimate way to learn and I am so grateful I’m finally here. I feel as though I’ve discovered a treat in this way of living; like, why don’t more people live like this, away from so many of the stresses of the usual modern-day life?

Above you see a very delicious homemade meal! The potatoes were given to me by a neighbor farmer after I helped them with the farmers’ market last Sunday. I learned from him the reasons it is important to always buy organic potatoes. Potatoes are, after all, one of the dirty dozen. In short, throughout the process of growing potatoes conventionally, they are repeatedly sprayed with various toxic herbicides and pesticides. Check out this Organic Nation site to learn more about it.

I’ve come to notice that farmers, at least the ones that I have met, are very generous people. They are proud of and want to share what they have grown. Unlike so many jobs today where workers see no physical result of their labor, farming provides almost minute-by-minute validation or challenge: new growth here, insect bites there, a huge magenta carrot pulled from damp soil, or the whole row of tomato trellising has fallen over. Unlike in many modern careers where the stresses are intangible, digital, or corporate, farmers experience directly with their subject matter, solving problems as they arise, planning on a more long-term basis, learning more season after season, year after year. I’ve noticed farmers are involved in their community’s politics, know their neighbors, and help each other.

This is why it hurts me when people come by our farm stand and complain to me, basically a volunteer, that our prices are too high. I want to tell them – this is the real cost of food! I can’t claim to know all the ins and outs of our food system, but government subsidies, importation from countries who don’t pay employees a living wage (include the USA in that) falsely represent the cost of food. And the biggest hidden cost of conventional food to goes to Mother Earth. By abusing our planet, corporations can produce food for lower costs, but this practice will ultimately destroy us.

I feel so lucky to be able to participate in this whirlwind of experience. I knew previously many of the reasons to buy and eat organic, but now having worked on at least one organic farm, I can say from that experience that organic is worth it and local is very worth it.

This Year, Know Your Food

A Stonyfield Farms advertisement caught my eye recently: “This Year, Know Your Food.” Hmm, I thought, I want to know my food. I went to their site to check out the “food adventure” sweepstakes. The winner would receive a fridge makeover and a visit to Stonyfield Farms. I decided not to enter the contest because, coincidentally, I am planning a year of really getting to know my food.

As most people have, in New Years past, I made resolutions. Some I have stuck with, others have faded with the passing of the months and finally been forgotten. Late in 2011, I happened upon a book, Shed Your Stuff Change Your Life, which suggested a different idea: Establishing a “theme” for a desired transition in life doesn’t have to be set at the New Year, but for me it was perfect timing. My theme for 2012 and beyond is “Getting My Hands Dirty.” Having finished college, completed my dietetic internship, passed the arduous registered dietitian exam, and landed a public health job, I saw no clear next steps in front of me. I began to feel stagnant. But, because I realized the world was wide open, I began to think critically and carefully about my next steps and unlock the possibilities for the future. I felt I needed some real world experience before re-entering the realm of academia. It felt wrong to begin the master’s of sustainable food systems program I’d been accepted to without ever having worked on a farm.

To amend this gap in my education, this year I plan to participate in wwoof (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) to get my hands dirty, literally, and to actually experience the philosophies I am so passionate about. I am hoping to wwoof at homesteads, more so than larger farms, to learn about sustainable living and providing for oneself. Most of the farm hosts I’ve contacted are small homesteads that primarily live off the land and sell some produce at nearby markets. Some are off the grid, described as “insanely committed camping.” All those I’ve contacted so far have been rural, but it would be great to experience an urban homestead as well. After all, it seems to me that since most folks live in cities, urban homesteading is a huge part of creating sustainability in our world.

One of the farms I might wwoof at is in Bath, NY. If I do make it there, I might just have to get an experience in urban homesteading in NYC. That would be the ultimate urban farming experience! I’m trying to leave my plan open-ended enough to allow for spontaneous opportunities to come at me (like NYC); however, I do want to have enough contacts when I set out that I won’t be wasting time on the trip trying to find farms that have space for me. Two notes I’ve written to myself in my wwoofing planning folder are “Don’t squeeze too much in!” and “Don’t be afraid to waver from the plan!” Yes, since I am usually an over-planner, I need to write these things in as reminders. What do you think the importance of hands-on experience is? Have you ever been a farming intern? Is it important to you to know your food?