My first 2 weeks of experience of the farm life are under my belt and my nails. That dirt never fully comes out! Playing in the dirt and rain has me feeling like a kid again with nostalgic outbursts of glee and running through sprinklers. I have learned a few things in this short time and the next 6 weeks will continue to be enlightening.
First up, farm work is hard. Farm work is not hard. I am working on an organic greens farm, no animals involved, and no produce being grown for sale only personal use. This means LOTS of hand weeding which sort of strains your back, but then you get up and the strain is gone. It’s really just a lot of time on target while hanging outside with new friends decimating the weed population, listening to music and laughing come rain, shine or bugs. You just need a little stamina to use your body all day, but no task has required any more demands than that. It is very relaxing to the mind to be using the body and I think this is the perfect task to help unwind slowly from the years of mental computer work. Oddly I find myself uttering things like “only a few more hours” or “I might take off early today”. Immediately after I wonder aloud as to why I just said that; I am not feeling those thoughts, but they are still mentally there. I am not really yearning for the day to be over, I have about zero aversion to the work I do all day, and I find putting in the full days work to be wonderful for my body and the quality of rest that fills my evenings. So the first realization is that this whole idea of “I have to go to work to get it over with” is a cultural belief and I am working to let the old habit go. I am here 100 percent by choice as are all my co-workers and everyone really loves what they are doing. It has been a great discipline to work each day by choice. I have fallen into a nice rhythm of daily work and my body has caught up with the new demands of actually using it; A far cry from sitting behind a desk. That certainly uses mental energy and lots of it, I know, so getting more in tune with the rest of my body is a nice change. Mixing equal parts of meditation, farm work and travel/play seems so far to be a great pattern to follow on my journey.
This is the first job I have gotten of my own efforts and choosing. When I had to write my resume for this job it was startlingly short and had nothing to do with my new career path. I worked for one summer as a file clerk in a law office (setup through a contact from my father) and all the other work has been for my fathers company in semi-formal capacity during high school, then officially from 2007-13. From the time I was an early teenager I knew I had a job lined up with my family and planned for that eventuality. It wasn’t until my twenties that I learned about who I was and what I really wanted out of life. When these two paths collided by going opposite directions I had to make some choices. Leave the security of an easy paycheck to try my hand at a self directed life and grow into the potential of fulfilling my own happiness. So this job, which is really a full time volunteer/intern position, is my first stab at making my own work choices. I know that farming as the main focus is not my lifestyle nor do I have the archetype to support it. I find great joy in growing my own food and being connected to the earth directly, but my skills and talents lay in other areas. I am trying to apply my experience here to the mental scale of farm I wish to manage and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around the kind of numbers we are outputting. For instance 270lbs of pea greens were picked one week. A full plastic shopping bag is about 2 lbs for reference. I grabbed about that much 2 weeks ago and im still eating them and drinking them in my morning smoothies. That is one of the biggest crops we do, but there are many lettuces, herbs, and flowers of all sorts that leave the farm by the pounds. There are 9 people that make this magic happen over 2 acres from seed to sold. When I try to apply this to sustaining a small community of 10-20 it seems so easy in comparison to the massive output each week.
A couple other things have turned out very nicely as well. I have co-workers for once and not clients. For the last 5 years I was basically on my own or working with my father, and the element of working life that most of my friends in offices and certainly in the service industry experience of getting to know and hanging out with co-workers was absent for me. I worked and then I went to play with my friends if I chose too. Now I have people to play with all day. Everyone is really nice and interesting and getting to know them all is so much fun. I am thinking what a wonderful lesson this is and may be overlooked by many. In my day to day life I would probably never have met any of these people, nor without spending hours a day just talking would I have gotten to know them so well and so quickly. It reminds me of my fraternity life in college. I would never have met many of those people either and yet I made some of the best friends because I got to spend hours together with them in various circumstances getting to know who they were. Its this type of community building with people who are vastly different from you that I think helps us grow the most. Surrounding yourself with similar minded people is very wonderful and builds depth, especially in conversations, but perhaps it is the people who are most different that help you grow and see different perspectives. Life is change, and the more change you can encounter the closer you may find yourself to living authentically. So go meet some people who do different things than you, try your hand at some activities that are new. You may find some you love, some that arnt for you, but all of them will help you grow and know yourself better. “Try everything once” is such a great adage for growth, just don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can peg an experience before you really try it.
So far working on the farm continues to be a great learning experience. I get access to as much fresh organic greens as I want. Lunch is typically provided via donations from around the city or making veggie stir-fry from the farms home garden. Sometimes even local or famous chefs from Boston come tour and make food. I even got my portrait taken by a local photographer who showed up. This is a great start and gives me great hope for traveling the world and wwoof-ing on other organic farms around the world and experiencing the varying differences in practices and produce. If I can make it here I can make it anywhere.
http://www.wwoofinternational.org/ :Link to the wwoof-ing website