February 7, 2009

farm essay

Today I want to share with you an essay I recently submitted for the Minnesota's Sustainable Farming Association's 'Youth Writing Competition.' (I know, youth - right?!)Since the following experience is the reason in which this blog was created, I thought you might want to take a peek.


Sprout: Growing on a Vegetable Farm
by Melinda Feucht

The challenge of telling the story of a summer working and living at Featherstone Fruits and Vegetables under 700 words is comparable to describing eating your first August heirloom tomato in two words. Not because I have nothing to say, rather every waking moment brought a new experience that shaped and transformed me. I could tell you stories about digging potatoes, harvesting melons, and picking tomatoes, but I’d rather share a story about what the farm experience has done to my mind and heart.

The first harvest of the season immediately gave me a glimpse of what makes farmers tick. In 2 hours, nearly 2,500 heads of lettuce were picked, washed, and packed for the grocery store orders in the Twin Cities. The excitement, energy, and adrenaline were both overwhelming and life affirming. At the end of the day, I felt a great sense of physical accomplishment as tangible results could be seen as a result of our labor- a feeling that one doesn't often encounter in college. As exciting as this sense of accomplishment was, it soon dawned on me that farming is not all top-of-the-mountain experiences.

The amount of risk and challenges involved with organic farming has brought me to a new appreciation for food and farms. Farming is an intensely spiritual line of work, and it takes a special person to tackle the challenge of giving control to the earth. One must have an abundance of faith in order to trust that year-in, year-out, nature will take its course and produce something of value. Preparing for the next growing season is a classic example of believing without seeing. Trusting that there is some other life form that will come-forth, bud, and fruit not without help, but without force, requires the patience of a person who trusts in the strength of something other than oneself.

The knowledge that I gained about farming didn’t come from learning about the vegetables, rather it came from the love and wisdom of the farm workers and community members. Yes, I learned that tomatoes love desert-like conditions and eating garlic keeps the mosquitoes (and your friends!) away, but I really saw the value of living simply. The ‘less is more’ mindset was present both on their plates and in their lifestyle. The wholesomeness of farm-eating was as surprisingly nourishing as picking basil, planting an herb garden, having an ice-cold beer with a friend on a hot July evening, and feeding my neighbor's chickens.

If I've learned one thing from my experience, it's that you've got to insist life to happen - it doesn't just fall into place. Like organic farming, nothing of value is produced unless the farmer wills the soil (albeit, naturally) to be a certain condition and have certain properties that makes it conducive to germination. We all make daily decisions that produce happiness in our lives. Often, those decisions aren’t the easiest to make. For me, it was spending that extra hour after volleyball for good conversation, having chicken mole with the Gasca brothers, jumping in the valley’s pond after work, spending a Saturday devoted to perfecting a tomato sauce or slogging through the mud for that perfect eggplant photo opportunity- these events have given value to my summer, value that wouldn't exist had I not insisted. That's when life happens, when one wills it.

Farming- it's not glamorous. But it's real, honest work. Growing food for people is one of the most intimate ways one can affect another individual. I would have laughed had someone told me a year ago how complete I'd feel with scarce phone and internet connection, no TV, no meat, a pond, an occasional shower, dirt under my nails, a two-room off-grid cabin, a slightly sore back, vegetables, and a cluster of hippies. All this, in exchange for a summer that I will always remember. It’s a decision that has made me who I am today and has given direction to where I’m going.

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