From Tuxedos to Lettuce Rows
"All America Lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream." - T.K. Whipple
Samantha, our Farm manager, said something that struck me: that perhaps volunteers end up on the farm because they are escaping something; some responsibility, an obligation, or an awareness of oneself. I’m sure she didn’t realize the theme of my Farm experience would be set when she followed with “What are you running from?”
I’m from Louisville, KY; I am owner/ operator of Tasty Tuxedo Treats and founder of Food For Thought after- school programs. Louisville is an up- and- coming city regarded as one of the nation’s top food cities, home of the iconic Churchill Downs, and a growing technological hub. There are a lot of things I love about the city- hence my foundation there- but in July I realized I was missing a fundamental element to my life in the Derby City; I just didn’t know exactly what.
Tasty Tuxedo Treats had wrapped up for the season, and I knew that Food For Thought was a work in progress. With the program- which focuses on cooking and growing food with teens-I had been tasked with learning how to produce during the academic year, which means growing during the cold season. I knew Kelsey, our livestock manager, from AmeriCorps seven years prior and she told me a little about The Farm’s season extension program. She referred me to Samantha, and I made the move to Meadowview a month later in the middle of October as a WWOOF volunteer.
Admittedly, I questioned the decision upon arrival. Not to any fault of the farm’s, but ignorant doubt definitely reared its head in those first 24 hours. Doubt of my own ability, my place in a new community, and the unknown in general. Within a few days, though,
my questions began to shift to ones like “Is it possible to have a profound experience while watering plants?” and “how do I make a dish of purple mizuna, sweet peppers, and fennel?”
There is an unexplainable connectedness that comes with farm life. Literally, from the welcoming arms of everyone I’ve met since arriving, and also one that transcends local hospitality. In a time when I struggled with complacency, relief was found in rays of sunlight on a cold morning, the germination of lettuce seeds, and the witness of a calf born on Halloween night.
I realize now that I had set a pace too fast for myself in Louisville, and I never gave myself the chance to fully understand what the city had to offer. I had, in a sense, become numb to the thrill of discovery and only scratched the surface of my experiences;
I was reading the headlines, but never whole articles.
Samantha asked me what I was running from in a playful manner, but it hit me hard at the time: it’s not that I’ve run away by coming to the farm, but rather that I’ve come into a more appropriate pace for myself. I was running before arriving to Harvest Table. I was running when I delved into a new business venture; I was running by going to the bar any chance I could; and I was running when I removed myself from the relationships I’d established there. The Farm has allowed me to slow down and find inspiration through discovery again; it has allowed me to find excitement in the learning process once more.
Some people say farming is an old practice of an old world. I would say that a farmer’s life is as current as any other’s. More so, I would say farming enables you to live in as much of the future as humanly possible. If we become disillusioned to what this earth has to offer us, and get caught up with the next best thing, we risk living a truly holistic life for one that is dependent on a future that does not yet exist. Progress is something we should strive towards, but we must be wary of getting lost in in our minds, lest we forget what we already have.
Jimmy has been on the farm for about a month. He is experiencing the beautiful monotony of winter growing for a bit longer before he makes his way back to the big city.