A Summer on the Middlebury College Organic Farm

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Fold the Map, Mend the Gap

Fold the Map, Mend the Gap

As I jump around Spotify trying to find new music for the Summer, I keep finding myself going back to the most recent Bon Iver album, “22, A Million”. When I first listened to it last September, I really didn’t like it. Justin Vernon’s beautiful vocals were […]

Adding to my Plate

Adding to my Plate

  We have only met in a classroom once this Summer, but six trips to various farms and centers in Vermont has launched me into the local food system faster than any reading could. I have begun to see patterns, make connections, and think about […]

Producing without the Pressure of Production

Producing without the Pressure of Production

Out on the knoll where the Middlebury College organic farm sits, I have began to make a second home for myself among the comfort of the patchwork of loamy beds, the neatly tidied shed, and breezy out door classroom. I work amongst a cast of characters that would not have all crossed paths if it weren’t for the farm. We discuss topics ranging from our favorite ice cream flavors to our hardest challenges at Middlebury. We make corny jokes about farming and food while humming ABBA tunes. Our boss is one of the kindest and most knowledgeable people I have ever met, and we are not being sarcastic when we say he is the kind of person that changes your life. He knows everyone and is humble about his connections to influential people, and just as sure to remember the name of the person passing by with their dog. We have learned how to adapt to changing weather and schedules, and how to work with different people. There are some jobs that I quickly got comfortable with, and new ones each day that keep me asking questions.

So, just about a month in to my internship, I feel I have exponentially improved my knowledge of farming, but have also gained insight on life and those that kneel in the beds across from me. I credit this largely to our privilege of being focused on technique and experimentation. With only about 1 acre actually being farmed, I quickly learned that this farm was more about education than production. We are proud to supply fresh and very local vegetables and some fruits to the college, but this is only a small percentage of the schools total food. I was surprised that it was so little for such a small institution, but this only goes to show the scale of supplying masses of people on a daily basis and also the challenge of keeping these quantities local. As I study food systems through the food works program, I question the validity and impact of our small farm. When there are still many people struggling to put food on their families tables, can we have the privilege of trying different cover crops or regeneration techniques just for experiment?
However, when I start to feel guilty about this Summer that I can cherish as a gift, I realize we are still having an impact beyond our grassy borders. Each semester the students that work on the farm are learning priceless lessons about sustainable farming. Every regenerative bed we plant and carbon we restore in a hugel mound plays its part in climate change and provides information to help local farmers improve their techniques. The food that is not served in dining halls and local restaurants is given to the Middlebury food shelf. Yet again, this is only a small quantity and I want to see how I can make the farm play a bigger role in our food system.

Today while we were working in the squash beds, I learned more about one chapter of Jay’s life. He started out teaching preschool after college because he said “That was how I was going to change the world.” Once he realized he would need to change the parents of the kids and not just the kids, he went down a different path. This eventually lead to managing the farm. The Foodworks program has made me not just accept my personal benefits from my Summer on the farm. However, I also think that we are gaining priceless information and learning things about ourselves that could help change the world one day.

My Diary

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As I jump around Spotify trying to find new music for the Summer, I keep finding myself going back to the most recent Bon Iver album, “22, A Million”. When I first listened to it last September, I really didn’t like it. Justin Vernon’s beautiful vocals were hidden by funky experimental beats I couldn’t handle. Yet, now here I am playing songs like 29 #Strattford APTS every day. In this song there is a line that goes “fold the map and mend the gap”. In the song, I think the person is folding the map because they finally know their destination in a relationship. They can now put their memories behind them and focus on finding inner peace. I on the other hand have absolutely no idea where I am going. If I am going to figure this out though, I think I need to put the map away and mend some gaps first.

Participating in the Foodworks program has been an incredible experience and working on the farm was something I was interested in doing all year. I care deeply about living sustainably and see the importance of eating locally. Learning more about Vermont food systems and the Middlebury College food system has been very beneficial and connects well with my Environmental Studies minor. However, in reality it is likely that I will remember this Summer more for the fun adventures I had with friends than a revelation to become a farmer.

Instead, this Summer I am slowing down. I am finding what is truly important to me and learning how to work hard and connect with people. This is done by slowing down my thoughts to focus on specific tasks at the farm. Physically, I haven’t fully slowed down and often find myself walking ahead of others, but your mind can still slow down while quickly weeding or shoveling. We like to call it contemplative weeding.

The pressures of school and lacrosse are not present, but I still worry constantly about my resume and abroad. When I try to justify my internship to outsiders, I wish I could quickly capture how I am growing as a person. I am independent and improving people skills just as much as my farming knowledge. I am more confident in my leadership skills and ability to connect with different people with unique approaches. Being aware of my moods and needs has helped me get off the relentless merry go round of stress talk about jobs and resumes. Taking a class that addresses real world issues has made my learning feel more justified than ever. I am more connected with the town and do not feel the underlying judgement that I sometimes feel as a college student taking over the town. I am reconnecting with the side of myself that came out in nature camp and with cousins. These sides do not come out when you are more worried about who is watching and what you “should” be doing.

I know the Foodworks program is very helpful to me, but I also know I do not need to justify it for a resume. The intangibles I am grasping will help guide me when I reopen the map.