I didn't set out to be a farmer. But over the past three years, I have felt the initial seed of interest bloom into a ripe obsession!
Thats why this winter I will start tilling up one acre of hayfield to start a companion vegetable farm with my friend who runs a meat CSA.
City Farm...a community center for the neighborhood.
This obsession was born my sophomore year at Providence College. As part of a year-long practicum for my public service major, I had signed up to work at City Farm as a community assistant.
Before that, I had only a little bit of experience with gardening--mostly helping my dad and mom in the garden. Other than that, I didn't really have much of an interest in farming. But, when I came to work at City Farm, something just seemed to feel really right about the work. As a public and community service major, I was really inspired by how City Farm is not only a farm but a real community center for the neighborhood.
It's a safe haven for anyone--kids, neighbors, gardeners asking for advice, volunteers from all around the city--anyone who has interest in building a shared spirit of community around growing food.
My favorite memories from this summer include working with the other college and high school interns. We called ourselves Team Awesome because we are! Jose is off studying Botany, Princess is working towards becoming a nutritionist, Johnny just got a job at the Boys and Girls Club. We are all "staying in the field"--not necessarily in the literal sense, but by taking what we learned at City Farm and applying it towards our passion.
On becoming a farmer
I am from Indiana where farming happens on a much larger scale. It is all corn and soybeans, so when my friends from home hear that I am going to become a farmer, they are thinking big agri-business farms and monocropping. I mean, in my hometown, all the train tracks lead to the factory that makes corn syrup!
Growing up, my family always went to the farmers' market, so I knew that there was agriculture outside of corn and soybean. However, I'd never been on a small scale farm before City Farm. I guess industrial agriculture just felt like a way of life out there.
But I am choosing another way of life--the life of a small-scale organic farmer, which feels really amazing. I know a lot of people my age are turning towards farming, and urban agriculture in particular, because it's something real, concrete and relate-able. As a farmer, you get to be a producer, putting something good out into the world, rather than just a cog in the workforce. At the end of the day you can say, "I grew that. I am feeding my community."
There are a lot of ways that people can be producers, whether it's a producer of art, music or food, but farming is just another way to put something out in the world that really means something.
Working with elders..and translating across difference
I really enjoyed working with the Community Growers Market Collaborative (a group of 10 Hmong women who collectively sell their produce at the Broad Street Farmers Market). It's a very cultural experience because most of those ladies that I was working with didn't speak any English, so to be surrounded by their talking in the background and showing their produce, I'd never had an experience before that communicating with someone without speaking the same language.
Every time at the market I would hear five or six different languages being spoken between families and between friends, which was really cool. They'd ask me about certain greens, but many don't have English names, so I had to be like, "I can tell you about the taste but now what it's called!"