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 …
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.