When I was 14 my great-grandmother Dorothy interviewed me for a gardening job. Standing in front of her flower beds that day I thought the work looked hot and hard, and I didn’t understand what she meant when she said the beds needed to be cultivated. I wavered, not sure if I wanted the job, and she replied, “That’s okay, I should probably find a boy to do it anyway.”
I don't know if she meant to, but she’d played me like a fiddle. I stiffened and stood up straighter, saying stubbornly, “No! I’ll do it.” She nodded, maybe even smiled. I tended her flower gardens for the next three years until I left for college. She taught me about the satisfaction of hard work and digging in the soil, and to never leave the rock rake lying tines-up ("Are you trying to kill me?" she'd say with a mock frown.) She started me down the path to becoming a farmer.
As a young person I thought somehow I could save the world. Climate change, population growth, animal rights… it was enough to make my young heart ache for solutions. I wanted to make change, make it better, but I didn't know how to make a big enough difference.
And I chose farming not just because it was good for people and the planet, but because I couldn't get enough of it.
Good food became my cause, and farming became my obsession. I would fall to sleep at night dreaming of the lush winter squash vines on my future farmland. I found plots of land to grow on, and I planned and planted and tended them religiously. I learned to sell my produce. I made mistakes, grew some beautiful crops, and I worked towards the life on the land that I dreamed of. Farming fulfilled me on a level that no other work ever had. I wanted more of it.
Today, I know what the word cultivates means and I think my great-grandmother Dorothy would be proud of our farm. She grew beauty for beauty’s sake, in beds of hydrangeas and peonies. I grow beauty too, in rows of carrots and beets and cabbage. And even though a core goal of our farm is to make the world a little bit better place, I know that it's the day to day challenge and satisfaction of working on the land that keeps me coming back for more. Thanks for the life lessons and calluses Grandma Dorothy!