Thursday, June 29, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things...

I find it fascinating how difficult it can be to choose a path when pursuing higher education, and yet when you settle on the right subject, it seems so obvious. For me, that subject is sustainable agriculture, however it took me quite a bit of personal exploration to reach this conclusion. My original plan was to attend Bridgewater University straight out of high school for psychology because I had taken AP Psychology and was fascinated by how people think. Then, in a whirlwind of spontaneity, my best friend and I decided to take a gap year and backpack through Europe for a few months. This bit of travel was my first introduction to anywhere outside the United States and made me realize how much I had left to see, leading to my ever fervent interest in traveling. Thus, I applied to a program called Global College, a program that allows one to travel while studying for a bachelor’s degree, through Long Island University and was accepted. However, a few weeks before I was about to move to Costa Rica, my loans were not approved and I couldn’t make this program financially feasible. After a second gap year of working full time and saving money, I moved to Western Massachusetts and began to attend community college for women’s studies. Not finding the drive I was looking for,  I FINALLY decided to dig deep down for what truly inspires me, what hobbies I already have that could create a livelihood, where I could see myself in the future…and duh! Agriculture!

Baby Sadie en route to pick cranberries at the bog!
Growing up, I was always outdoors. My father was a landscaper and I was always running around through gardens. I was happiest running through my own vegetable garden and picking fresh basil to make pesto for my favorite meal, pesto pasta and garden salad.  For my tenth birthday party, I had all of my friends over to paint rocks to outline my favorite part of my vegetable garden, and even now, I am happiest with my hands in the dirt. It seems bizarre that I wouldn’t see this as an immediate choice for study, but I suppose we are trained to think of more mainstream and high paying careers rather than creating a career out of a hobby that we love. Since I made this hobby my educational pursuit, I have enjoyed every moment. I love to nerd out about soil science, which I have had plenty of opportunities to do during this program, or simply watch my little seedlings sprout into productive plants. Some of my happiest evenings are spent in my backyard using fresh vegetables to cook meals with my friends and eat together under the stars. I have been a little blue about not being able to create my lovely garden back home this year, but the opportunity to visit so many beautiful farms and learn more about this lively community has been incredible.
            My other hobbies include traveling and reading, both of which are also being satisfied during this program! I brought some books with me and have enjoyed a few afternoons reading down by the lake, and of course, reading as much literature as I can about social networks and conservation agriculture. And traveling…well, who thought I would ever be out here in Wisconsin! Being able to experience farming in a community far from home has been enlightening, and I hope to bring back everything that I am learning to the farm I work on back home. My conversations with farmers have sparked a lot of new thoughts for me, such as whether or not organic should be the number one priority or if more thought should be given to practices that focus on soil health (such as using cover crops but instead of tilling, using no-till and herbicides to allow planting after the cover crop…such an interesting debate!). This fall, I begin my thesis at Hampshire College and am definitely interested in a lot of the ideas being discussed out here. This experience has been a perfect combination of my personal interests and my studies, and I feel very inspired!

My farm crew back home with last summer's garlic harvest!

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