What were you doing a year ago? Me? I was training for/stressing about my first half marathon, planning a trip to Iceland, and building a life for myself in Brooklyn. Farming wasn’t even on my radar.
Today marks six months at Wyebrook. How quickly life can change! I planned to write something profound and introspective to mark this milestone, but I’ve been fighting writer’s block these past few weeks so we’ll see how this goes.
I survived spring and summer and things are starting to slow down as we head into fall. The slower pace means it’s time to start asking myself those big questions like “Do I enjoy this?,” “Am I happy?,” and “What’s next?”
Do I enjoy farming? Absolutely. I wouldn’t go back to New York for all the hipsters in Brooklyn. Farming is hard and dirty. It’s exhausting – physically, mentally, and emotionally – but I love it. For the first time in years my work has meaning. Tangible value. I am raising real food for real people! I get to interact with those people and tell them exactly how their food is produced. I am the link between field and table. It’s awesome! When I worked at the law firm, I envied my friends who were nurses and teachers. Their jobs seemed so important compared to mine. Now I wake up everyday knowing that what I do makes the world a better place. It’s a great feeling.
Farming isn’t glamorous. A year ago I go to play dress up every day. Skirts. Heels. Pearls. Make-up. It was a little girl’s dream. Now my daily uniform consists of old jeans, faded baseball hats, and muck boots. My hands are completely calloused. By 8:00 a.m. every day I am covered in something – mud, feed, manure, sweat, or some combination thereof. At some point I stopped fighting it and just accepted that dirty was my new norm.
I am stronger now than I’ve ever been. When I started I could barely manage the 50 pound bags of mineral supplement for the cows. Now I can maneuver 100 pound bags of feed. Not easily, but I can do it.
When I was little, I wanted to be a vet. I loved animals and thought any job that let me work with them on a daily basis would be great! I gave up that dream when I realized part of the job required me to put animals down. I didn’t think I could stomach it. In the past six months I’ve become intimately acquainted with death, encountering it on a weekly basis. My first day involved a dead chicken, piglet, and cow. I’ve helped catch animals for slaughter, seen a cow die, and even killed a chicken myself.
Am I happy? Without a doubt.
As for what’s next, I have no idea. I’m not much of a planner. I used to be, but my plans all seem to blow up in my face so I try to just take life as it comes. Farming wasn’t part of the plan, but it’s been one of the most fulfilling experience of my life to date. I’d like to stay in agriculture, though I don’t think I want to manage/run a farm of my own. I still have so much to learn before I’m even remotely qualified to run a farm, but even once I am, I’m not sure I’d want my own. Farming is very rewarding, but it can also be very lonely and a lot of work if you aren’t part of a team. I think I’d find myself burnt out pretty quickly.
Still, I’d like to be on a farm at least part of the time. I like the physical labor and being outside. I like the animals and feeling connected to nature. Maybe I end up on another farm. Maybe I end up with an agricultural non-profit in Philly or back in NYC. Maybe I find my way back to Cambodia! Time will tell. Doors have always opened right when I needed them to: China, NYC, Brooklyn, Wyebrook. It may not be the best plan, but I’m banking on that happening again in the next few months.