Ten Percent is Enough

By Marianthe Bickett ‘15

The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.
—Bill Mollison

When I decided to attend Antioch College in the Spring of 2011, I was doing an internship at a worker-owned kitchen that transformed local organic produce into nutrient-dense prepared foods. I had worked on several small farms previously and I was already hooked on how good freshly-shelled peas and heirloom tomatoes tasted, on the community formed over the hard dirty work of farming, and on the agency I found in knowing how to grow my own food. I was passionate about the potential of food from local and ecologically-sound sources as alternatives to the myriad of environmental, health, human rights and animal welfare concerns within the food industry. I think food is our best medicine and I knew I wanted to pursue further training in nutrition and a vocation that helped make real food more available and accessible to people. But I chose to come to Antioch because I couldn't pass up this strange oddity of an experience. I never anticipated that I would be able to pursue these interests in such a profound way here.

I arrived at Antioch and learned that farm manager Kat Christen and a willing volunteer workforce of professors, administrators and staff had already begun to develop a farm on the little chunk of south campus where the old community garden had existed. It was just some beds of lettuce, Asian greens and a few chickens, but the fact that the college believed it was important enough to spearhead before we even arrived was thrilling to me. But when it was time to apply for campus jobs, there was a lot of interest in the farm and I thought I'd let someone who hadn't had much experience have that opportunity, and didn’t list it in my top choices. Thankfully, Susan Eklund-Leen sat me down and said something along the lines of, "this is the job for you, take it." So I did.

If I hadn't, I would be graduating with significantly less confidence that I have any marketable skills to offer. And in this current post-graduation haze of "what the hell am I supposed to do now and how am I gonna support myself", having any less of that sounds entirely unappealing. A liberal arts degree is never something offered up as the most surefire way to financial stability, and this one, from a not-quite-a-college yet, has been especially slim in some resources and opportunities that provide more practical job-related experience. But spending four years developing a farm from the ground up is an awesome thing to have under my belt, on my resume, and in the blisters, scars and callouses all over my arms and legs. Not only do I know how to produce vegetables, meat and eggs, I have learned to plan events, manage employees, lead tour groups, direct volunteers, do grant research, write farm reports, network with the community and navigate institutional bureaucracy.

I am leaving Antioch feeling conflicted about the amount of energy it has required relative to what the experience has concretely provided. Being a part of this inaugural class has not been an easy ride. But I am leaving with an incredible depth of gratitude for the farm, and 100% certainty that working there for four years has been an enormously worthwhile and positive experience.

So thank you. To Kat, for continuing to steadfastly support and nurture this project of guiding an ever-shifting motley crew of young people with little to no farming knowledge to work the land and produce bountiful fruits. You have been such a source of dedication, expertise, pragmatism, patience and kindness despite all the many challenges this job has presented. To all of my fellow student farmers for making this work so full of camaraderie and interesting and often hilarious conversation. And especially to Sam Senzak, the other member of the class of 2015 who worked tirelessly with me and Kat from the beginning, braving sick chickens and tomato hornworms and dog attacks. To everyone on our Farm Committee and in the staff, faculty and administration who supported the vision of the farm even when it came under much scrutiny and skepticism. To all my friends who accompanied me on nighttime walks in the middle of finals or div dances to secure the chickens safely in their coops (and occasionally reminded me at 11pm when it had slipped my mind). To our amazing kitchen staff who are so willingly adventurous incorporating our sometimes unusual produce into their delectable meals. To all the community members who have come out to volunteer nights or donated tools or plants or supplies, and to the future students of Antioch, who will sustain the farm going forward and enjoy the first crop of Honeycrisp apples and tart cherries from the trees we have planted!