By Marianthe Bickett '15
It is finally hot and steamy here in Ohio, and everything on our little farm is growing abundantly. Although to the trained eye our crops are neatly delineated, at first glance the lush vegetation (and tropical weather) lends itself to feeling like some sort of Midwestern jungle. Mosquitos, chiggers, slugs, spiders, poison ivy, stinging nettle, scorching temperatures, and sticky humidity are givens this time of year. And the chickens might have laid some eggs in the back of the coop where there are no nesting boxes, so I’ll have to crawl on my hands and knees through chicken poop to get them. One of our sheep might have an injury or perhaps voles have burrowed into the greenhouse and are nibbling on the beets. Seeds we so carefully planted in our nursery could get forgotten for a day or two and fail to sprout.
Farming is full of these little setbacks. It requires a great deal of physical energy, as well as mental acuity for all the constant problem solving that is necessary. I am so glad that within my generation there is a new excitement around farming generated from our collective realization that the methods of food production we rely on are unhealthy, exploitative, and unsustainable. I also understand why farming does not appeal to everyone. But for me, the discomfort and disappointment inherent in farming grounds me in reality. I love the wild beauty of the garden and the scrumptiousness of tomatoes right off the vine. I love that the food we grow is much more nutritious than store-bought, and contributes vibrancy to everyone in our community, but primarily I love that farming forces me to contemplate what goes into the nourishment I depend on to survive. It requires that I consider the incredible complexity and interconnectedness of life, in all its subtlety.
I have always loved cooking and been fascinated by food. As I got older, I was also interested in the ethical considerations when it comes to the food I eat. At first, I thought that meant becoming a vegetarian. As I realized there was much more nuance to food decisions than simply avoiding meat, I was motivated to learn everything I could about food production, and how to provide this most important resource for myself. I fell in love with farming during my first experience living and working on a small family farm in southern Maine, and it became a driving passion of mine. When Antioch announced they were planning to start a farm on campus, I was thrilled. I have been working on the farm since my start at the College in fall 2011. It is a fabulous way to learn the ins and outs of planning and executing a huge variety of different farm projects, and to see all it takes to start a garden from the ground up.
One other thing I love about farming—the people. In being part of the farm, I've met people from the wider Yellow Springs community that I never would have known otherwise, and I get to talk with students and staff I might not otherwise have time to chat with in our busy schedules. Having a good conversation makes the workload feel much lighter, and I've been lucky to work with so many passionate and interesting people. Right now we have two awesome new interns from the class of 2017—Lauren Blakemore and Rachel Gjessing—who have been full of new energy and enthusiasm, and it has been a joy to herd chickens and pull garlic with them!