This has been one of the longest weeks in recent memory. The changes for our family have been huge and, so far, rewarding. The two things that have really hit home this week are that 1) life on the farm does not fit my boxes and 2) life on the farm is slow.
Life on the farm is not structured
We moved in last Saturday with the help of our new farm friends. They helped us move the last of our things and unload them into our new apartment. We were moving in just as they were starting their first annual Fair Trade Festival. There was a lot that I didn’t know about how life on the farm worked and what I would be doing. However, there wasn’t an orientation or syllabus that told me everything I wanted to know or didn’t know to ask. I found myself frustrated by this. I wanted everything neatly laid out for me. Where was the structure? Where was the organization?
It turns out my academic training doesn’t work out neatly in the real world. Learning on the farm is more about doing things and asking questions. Knowledge is passed on by working together and having conversations. It does not happen so much in the classroom (though we do have class twice a week). This has been a big adjustment for me. Things sometimes feel like a disorganized mess, but I’m learning to love the mess and embrace it.
Life on the farm is slow
As I was weeding lettuce my first day of farm work, I started realizing that this work is about details and slowness. It really hit home when I was weeding a field experiment on perennial grasses for dairy goats. I really felt like there was something more productive I could be doing. The work was slow and tedious and would not even produce results for another year. They were letting the different perennials grow for a year before even testing goats on it. I wouldn’t be at the farm long enough to see the fruits of my labor in this field.
There have certainly been other times when i have harvested dinner from the garden that I have rejoiced in being so directly connected to my food. In general, however, life works on a much different timetable on the farm. I’m in the process of shedding some of my cultural skin that demands organization and efficiency. I’m excited about what I can bring to the farm.
As the local education intern I am in charge of groups coming to visit the farm and speaking at schools and other organizations. I got my first taste speaking at my wife’s school all day Friday for their Math and Science Day. I talked about the nitrogen cycle using a rabbit, bucket of compost and leucaena tree. It was rewarding to make connections for kids between the nitrogen cycle and the food they eat. I was extremely gratified that almost no one said that fruits and vegetables came from the store.
It could also be frustrating only getting across one or two points. Why can’t these kids understand the food system? For that matter why can’t adults? Just like life on the farm, the process of educating people is a slow journey that we’re all on together.