Many folks may not realize this, but today, March 19 is National Ag Day. It is a day marked to recognize and celebrate agriculture. For if not for the hard work and dedication of our farmworkers we would not have food and nourishment (or much else for that matter!) So in honor of this important day, we asked our very own Farmer Becky to share some of her thoughts on why she chose to be a farmer.
It is the season of spreadsheets and meetings for this farmer, for whom a day of weeding seems at this point a relief from days in front of a computer. I take comfort in knowing that this planning will encourage our fruitful season ahead, but I also take time to reflect on the winter indoor work and how it contrasts to the steady daily toil of the busy growing season. People often ask me how I came to be in my current line of work, and the answer’s never simple, and it changes. Maybe it started as a wild summer job that lined up with my environmentalist values and desire to work outside. It has blossomed through time into an interest in a self-sufficient lifestyle, a devotion to local food communities, a love affair with food, a taproot with the earth, and now, an appreciation for thriving businesses and a strange new appreciation for spreadsheets.
I recently went out to a meeting of other beginning farmers in Southern Maryland, organized by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, and featuring farmers from a whole range of operations in the area. While we sat over our omelettes and coffee, listening to each other’s shared concerns, it occurred to me that as new farmers we were all navigating new territory. Whether on old family land or new lease agreements, in a conventional model or organic, local aggregators or non-profits, we were redefining a lifestyle. We were all there to promote local food, and tell the story of our food. No matter how we chose to create our local product, there was the shared sense of wanting to relay something vital about our farm to the non-farmers in our public.
It is something like finding somebody from your hometown in a foreign city to feel this connected sense of purpose. For I know that we all have chosen this life, that this is not the regular or encouraged path. And our success is dependent on each other as well as our own ability to work a little harder everyday and think a little more everyday about how to stay innovative in a world that often overlooks farmers. I guess what I felt sitting with this group of farmers talking tractors and farm regulations and marketing was pride. Pride for being included among this group of brave humans deciding to choose this tenuous life.
I also realized something about consumers, mainly the CSA community that we have here at the Foundation, and that is, through the decision to participate in a CSA, these people are also brave, unconventional, and intentional. That they place a trust in us, as the producers of their vegetables, to deliver every week, to live the values that we express, and to keep our food clean and safe. Maybe this gets back to the reasons why I have chosen this life: me at the center, healthy in body and soul, sharing the daily work with other caring workers. The circle widens, including our local farming community and then rippling exponentially as we sell to our respective markets. The story is shared, it overlaps, we are all creating this new paradigm everyday through hard work, open minds, and courage.