As I sat on the train to Grand Central, I felt most connected to the fly crawling on my arm. The people around me, their business suits, skinny jeans, and un-tanned skin were foreign – they inhabited a wholly other world than the one I had just left.
Before leaving Vermont and traveling back to the city, I didn’t feel any different. I was the same old me: New York University Student from Iowa, interested in all things French and food. I harbored a concern for the origins of my food – I wanted it to come from a farm, without chemicals, with farmers who cared – but I didn’t really understand what that meant. It was a vague notion, almost dream-like.
This summer, I learned what sustainable food is. I know how much work it takes to plant, weed, and harvest by hand. I made connections with farmers and saw many different techniques for food production – from tractors to horse-drawn plows, to simply using your hands. I fed and played with animals that I later took to slaughter.
Now, being totally removed from that agricultural setting, I feel lost. My food is my main concern. Eating locally was so easy when I was on the farm; I just had to go outside (or, at the most, down the road to the neighbors). But back in the city there is no local food in sight – at least not that I can afford. In the city, I am completely divorced from the agricultural community that I have become a part of.
Without even realizing it, I have been changed exponentially by my summer farming. And now, my number once goal is to share my experience and knowledge with others. So I am starting here, with this blog, and four life lessons that I learned from the land, the animals and people that inhabit it.
1. Slow Down. Take time to notice the little things that make every day different – like the sprouting of a new plant or the birds outside.
2. Reach out! Ask questions, and talk to anyone. Everyone has something different to share, and you may learn something surprising!
3. Grow something – anything! It will teach you just how much care goes into producing the food you eat everyday.
4. For every action, there is a reaction. Turning the lights on takes energy, driving your car takes fuel, tilling the field compacts the soil. Remember to consider all the consequences your actions have – not just the reactions that happen around you or right away.
Gardening Tip of the Week: Do you want to grow something but have no outside space? Lettuce and herbs can be grown on your windowsill or fire escape – just make sure they have large pots, plenty of sun, and the right amount water. For more info look here and here.
Alexis ZK is pursuing her interest in sustainable agriculture and local food by spending the summer WWOOFing and studying at Sterling College, VT. During the school year, she studies French and Food Studies at NYU, and fulfills her addiction to farmers markets. Follow her internship here.