Introduction: Part 2 of 3ish (con’t)

Due to time constraints, this post was originally written on Monday, October 28. Because of my discipline to review and edit posts a couple of times before publicly posting them, as well as a surprise visit from an old friend, I was delayed a bit in publishing it.

Starting in the beginning of 2014, or more accurately the end of 2013, I’ll be living at Russet House Farm, near Cameron, Ontario, while I attend school.
Russet House Farm is owned by two wonderful people, Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat, who are, in no particular order, academics, theologians, authors and farmers.

When I was looking for a place to live in the greater Lindsay area, I was struggling a bit because of the specific conditions which I required (which hopefully I’ll be able to reveal in a couple of weeks). It is very difficult to randomly e-mail strangers and ask to stay on their land. Or rather, it is very easy to actually e-mail them… the difficult part is the convincing.

When I was bemoaning my struggles to my sister, she mentioned that perhaps, she may know of a couple who would be up for being convinced. She had been to their farm for a book release party, and had been amazed by what she saw there. More importantly, they were counter cultural enough (in the best possible way) to possibly consider my proposition…

And so, my e-mail began: “I’m not really sure how to begin this e-mail as this is probably the most random e-mail that I’ve ever written in my life. Most likely it is also the most random e-mail that you’ve ever received. If it is not, please let me know, so that I can try harder next time.”

Sadly, in the reply I received a couple of days later, I was told that my e-mail may not, in fact, have been the most random e-mail that they had ever received. They were, however, interested in meeting to discuss the possibility of me living there.

Back in August of this year, as I was visiting my family in Uxbridge, I made a trip to Cameron in order to meet with them, bringing my girlfriend, Adar along for moral support and also to show them my better half. The next four hours were amazing. We joked with them, discussed shared acquaintances, shared our stories, ate chips and homemade salsa, marveled at the works of Wendell Berry, toured the property and were amazed by the grace and hospitality that the two of them exuded. We also discussed my request in greater detail, what was required of them, what I could offer as a form of payment, and so forth. When I left, though the final decision had not yet been made, I knew I had been genuinely blessed to meet such an incredible couple.

We exchanged references a little later, they checked out mine while I contacted a couple of their previous interns (who both gave me rave reviews), and, around the middle of September, they offered me a place to stay. I would be given the opportunity to live very closely with this amazing family!

Next week, I will go into a few more details on the actual farm itself… and why it will be a great home base for me to continue my experiment with learning to live well in my place.

Adam

Introduction: Part 2 of 3ish

I’m a firm believer that one of the largest problems facing modern agriculture is the recent loss of the rural culture that was so prevalent for much of human experience. Of late, there has been massive urbanization throughout the world, with the result being a chronic shortage of people left in rural areas. There are a myriad of reasons for this, which I won’t go into today, but the shortage of people in rural areas, coupled with the growth of the consumer culture has largely devastated most ruralĀ  communities.

I’m really cognizant of the fact that I am heading into rant territory, but please bear with me. I promise I will not actually rant, but will only skirt the line momentarily.

I believe community is important for all people in all places and at all times. I believe it truly allows us to be fully human, in fact it is required in order for us to truly experience all of human existence. I believe however that it is especially important in rural areas.

Recently, I was driving across Ontario and was blessed to see a group of (I believe) Old-Order Mennonites doing hay. They had two teams of horses pulling the wagons and at least six people loading the hay onto the wagons. I compare this to how most modern farmers do hay, which involves a lot fewer people and a lot more tractor, and the difference is startling. Though I do not believe the Old-Order Mennonites are perfect, I do admire the importance they place on building community, especially through the discipline of work. I would also suggest that a lot of how they farm is incredibly sustainable, and has proven so over a long period of time. I believe there is more than just a coincidence there.

When I first thought of moving to Lindsay, I wanted to take part in building community, in a number of ways. I’ll discuss more of these ways in future posts. One way though that I wanted to build community was to find people I could live with. People who I could learn from, both within agriculture and also in other ways. Our homes are the building blocks of community. From there, from the everyday working out of daily lives, community begins.

While I will relate more details next week, I am happy to say that I have met an incredible family who have agreed to let me stay with them… a family from whom I will learn a LOT from! Let me say that I am so incredibly stoked to be able to get to know them next year.

And no. They are not Old-Order Mennonites.

Introduction: Part 1 of 3ish (con’t)

First of all, a very happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian readers. Having worked in the gardening/farming world now for four years, I’ve spent a lot of time considering this holiday, which, for the record, may be my favourite holiday of the year. Like many people, I spend the time leading up to it counting my blessings and realizing how thankful I have every reason to be. I won’t create a full list here, though I think there is merit for taking the time to write that stuff down. Rather, I will share one specific thing that I’ve realized I am very thankful for, something that I never thought of before I began farming.

As I mentioned last week, I love farming and all the physical and mental and emotional work that goes with it. And so, this Thanksgiving, this harvest time… I’m thankful the growing season is finished for the year. This may seem bizarre, after all I’ve been waxing on about how much I enjoy working the fields… but right now, I’m looking forward to not have to pick and pull and bend and sweat and to being able to have dirt-free hands and… I’m looking forward to the blessed rest from farming that autumn and winter bring. And I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year.

Also, a very special shout out goes to my Mom. Who “liked” my last post on The Facebook.

And herein begins this week’s post…

Starting next January, I will be attending Sir Sandford Fleming College in Lindsay, Ontario, for their one-year, post-degree program in Sustainable Agriculture. I like saying post-degree as I feel it lends an extra element of credibility to my choice to go back to school. “Sure, I’m going back to school… but this time, it’s a post-degree program. Kind of like a PhD.” I also like saying it’s for sustainable agriculture since it makes me look especially hip and earthy. Certain segments of the population actually think I’m a hero for wanting to becoming a farmer. Another segment (largely though sadly made up of disillusioned farmers) thinks I’m quite stupid for doing this. In a way, they’re both right.

The program itself is a one-year program, as mentioned above, which is nice because I am getting old(er) and don’t have the interest to spend too much more time in school. The first semester seems to be a bit of an introduction to sustainable agriculture, which is nice because the word sustainable can mean a number of things to a number of different people. The second semester is an internship on a farm of my choice. The final semester is spent figuring out all the really exciting details, such as legal and business matters. At least that’s my idea of what it will be like. I suppose I’ll find out more in January.

Back in 2011* I decided to tour the program while on a trip to Uxbridge to visit my family. I managed to sit in on a lecture and meet and chat with some of the students. It was a very exciting time for me (the lecture was on sustainable grazing methods… I remember this because I am a dork. I actually still have the notes I took that day. See? Dork.).

Afterwards, I went on a private tour of the campus, which has a lot of really interesting sustainable systems (green roof, living walls, massive composting system, gigantic wind turbine/sundial…). The gentleman leading the tour was one of the primary administrators/founders of the program, so it was a great opportunity to ask all sorts of questions.

That’s when I knew I would be attending in 2014. I’m going to be a farmer!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Adam

* I’ve been trying to figure out what year I toured their campus and met the students and the program administrator/instructor… I thought it was earlier than this but it must have been this year… I believe it was late spring/early summer.

Introduction: Part 1 of 3ish

First of all, I would like to thank those of you who read the first posting. I would like to especially thank those of you who sent me a personalized message. I’m not sure if anybody can comment on my post or not… I know I have severely restricted access to my Facebook account for a myriad of reasons, though I would like to have some way to create discussion about my upcoming experiment… I’m trying to figure out how to proceed on this front and so I will keep you all posted on what I decide.

I’m excited and encouraged that people are curious about what I’m up too. Hopefully, as the upcoming year progresses, each of you will continue to check back, following along as I try to better learn how to live well in my place. I hope we can learn from each other.

In my third year at Lakehead, I took a course called Ecological Literacy. What a fantastic name for a course. Through this course, I was introduced to the idea of Place, a concept that still excites me whenever I think about it. Rest assured, I will explain this concept in much further detail in a future post. Through disciplines such as tracking, bird watching and foraging, I began to see the world around me in ways I had not previously seen. I was also introduced to the work of Mr. Wendell Berry. I will also go much further into him in a later post, though for my purposes today, I will provide a quick sketch.

Mr. Berry is a writer. Fiction, poetry and essays are his mediums and his messages include love and fidelity, stewardship and work, conversation and thought, and the power of fellowship, among others. Mr. Berry is living in a community in Kentucky, along the Ohio River, in which he can trace his family for several generations. This looks like it may continue, as his children and grandchildren also currently live there. Mr. Berry, though foremost a writer, is also a farmer. And he writes about farming extensively. Through his work, I began to become interested in perhaps pursuing agriculture as a possible career.

Around that time, I had the option of volunteering with some friends at a local farm. After spending a day there removing some old fencing, I began to realize that perhaps, this was something that I was really interested in. I began to work in agricultural settings. I worked with a historical farm in 2010. The summers of 2011 and 2012 saw me working with a local urban vegetable garden. This past summer I worked at yet another local vegetable farm, in a full-time capacity. Each step of the way, I realized, more and more, that this was something that I enjoyed doing. I enjoyed the feel of the dirt on my hands and under my fingernails. I enjoyed the honestly analytical questions that were required of me to be asked. I enjoyed the humility required by weather and pests and everything else that was outside of my control.

And I knew it was time to stop looking at agriculture as a fun way to spend a summer, and to start looking at it as a life’s vocation…

A new beginning…

Well, it has been over a year since my last post. I tried to publish this post on the exact anniversary, however my computer time is blessedly limited, so it got delayed a wee bit. Part of me wishes that I had got this one published at the one year mark, just for the sake of symmetry, but alas it was not to be. I’ll get over it I’m sure.

Since I first created this blog, my goal was to use it as a vehicle to share my experiences as I learned to better live in my place. That phrase is a loaded term of course, to “better live in one’s place.” and I will not delve into it now, though I will jot a note down for myself so that I can explore it better at a later date. Needless to say, looking back over my two posts thus far, I am not sure that I can exactly consider this entire experience a completely successful experiment.

So what have I been doing for the past twelve months? Life mostly. I have been living, working, worshiping, playing, and celebrating, each to a certain degree. And I have been laying low. I have, largely though not entirely, “disappeared from the grid,” which is a phrase I use with glee, and something that you, dear reader, will soon hopefully appreciate as much as I do in very short order. Since my last posting (or perhaps even before my last posting) I decided to temporarily remove myself from The Facebook and had given my phone number out to a very select few people. I was still reachable via e-mail, but sadly and interestingly enough, that mode of communication has become somewhat obsolete except for spammers and select institutions*. Now, to be clear, I have recently rejoined The Facebook, albeit in an extremely limited capacity, and have given my phone number out to more people, yet still, over the past year, I have remained a relative recluse.

It should be noted that this is not because I don’t like people. I generally like them very much, though I will admit I like some people more than I like others. This usually has more to do with whether or not they like me first, though I digress. The reason that I have almost vanished from the social scene is because I was tired. Not depressed certainly, but tired. And I needed some rest. I needed a way to revive myself after five beautiful years in The Academy, a sort of Sabbath for myself. I needed time to consider the future, to plan, to prepare, and to begin something new, something exciting and something that is possibly so utterly bizarre that only an individual whose passions include sustainable agriculture, camping, and Benedictine traditions could possibly think it is even remotely a good idea.

But that post, my dear readers, is for another day.

Sincerely,

Adam

* As a somewhat related aside, I was recently told by a friend of mine that they have no way of reaching me. I asked them if they had my e-mail address. They did. I asked them if they had me on their Facebook list. They did. I asked them if they knew my phone number. They did. I asked them if they knew where I lived. They did. It turns out that, due to my complete dislike of texting culture, I refused to get a cell phone. Which meant that they could not figure out how to reach me.