Back in the fall of 2010, I got this crazy idea that it might be fun to intern at a farm and learn a little more about the sustainability movement, how food is grown, and what farm life is like. So, instead of doing the smart thing which would’ve been to find a paid farm internship during the summer, I took a Sustainability Practicum at GVSU and actually PAID to read and write about sustainability while working at a small organic vegetable farm.
Yes, you read that correctly, I PAID to do farm work. (Sorry Mom & Dad…)
While I look back fondly on those 150 hours I logged at the farm, a lot of my memories are less than revelatory. Of course, I remember the incredible and succulent taste of the heirloom tomatoes we ate with thick slices of mozzarella cheese for lunch breaks. And, the indescribable beauty of the sun rising over the fields with dew gently covering everything. I remember watching the hogs playfully eat their way through the vegetable scraps we dumped into their yard every day. But, mostly I remember the difficulties and discomfort of farm life.
I remember having to wake at 6:30am to make the 45 minute drive to farm to be in the field harvesting by 8am (an ungodly hour for me now, let alone when I was in college). And, as I watched that gorgeous sun makes it way over the horizon, I remember the numbness in my fingers that occurred just minutes after I started harvesting from that “glorious morning dew.” I remember the abundant amount of work that went into planting, pruning, weeding, harvesting, washing, packing, storing, transporting, and then (finally!) selling at an early Saturday morning farmer’s market, no matter the weather. Literally, even in a thunderstorm we were there and there were actually people buying!
But mostly, I remember the dirt.
The first time I met the farmer, Rachelle, who was the sweetest person you could imagine – idealistic, yet a grounded and hard worker – I remember thinking that the dirt that clung to the cracks in her skin and underneath her fingernails was so authentic…so cool and hip.
And then…that dirt was under my fingernails, clinging to the cracks in my skin. And, let me tell you, I couldn’t wait to get home and take a HOT shower to wash that dirt right off of me so I could feel squeaky clean as soon as possible. Farming, it turns out, involved a lot of discomfort. And…I wasn’t so comfortable with that discomfort.
Reflecting on that time in my life, I laugh now. We were first married and still living in an apartment in a suburb of Grand Rapids – something I can’t imagine now (both living in an apartment and living in the suburbs). Dan hated it (go figure) because the closest to nature we got was the illegal “natural” substance that the tenants above us smoked into the wee hours of the morning. We were about as out of touch with our food production as possible and the dirt that so bothered me represented that.
I’ve grown a bit in my dirt-loving by now, though I’m still not a perfect farm girl since I do maintain a “city job” and am required to look decently presentable from time to time. Still, I’ve come to a place where I revel in the dirt and dust that settles on my freshly washed hair, and the manure that cling to my boots after finishing a farm project. Instead of running to the shower to immediately scald any remaining traces of dirt from my skin, I now run to the fridge to pop the top of a cold beer while I sit, watch the sun set, and truly embrace the dirt.
*The inaugural Two Sparrows Farm Open House is this Saturday May 18 from 1:00-5:00pm. Join us for food, tours, and a lesson in embracing your inner dirt 😉