the age of learning

i have always felt that one of the great weaknesses in our current educational system is children spend their days surrounded by others in their same developmental phase. the bulk of their waking hours are with same age kids, offering little true opportunity of engagement with anyone significantly developmentally different.

in my heart i believed that the best learning comes from interactions with those younger and those older. interfacing with folks in a different developmental phase offers the truest chance to learn.  as we gaze upon those younger than ourselves, we see where we have been. we can pride ourselves on the lessons we have learned, on obstacles overcome. as we look at those older, we see where we are going. we prepare for what lies ahead and our fears of the unknown are calmed as we befriend those older than us. with this reflection comes some of our greatest learning.

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learning doesn’t stop with school (or in the case with my children, never started with school!) and i had a wonderful opportunity for such education coupled with self reflection last week at an informal women farmers gathering held in nasvhille. when i entered the room i saw mostly new, predominantly young, faces. i have to admit, it was startling at first.  in my  mind, i sort of still think of myself as a young farmer. (perhaps because i still feel the thrill of my life’s choice) i noticed a young farmer panel discussion held at a recent event, and i actually wondered  why i wasn’t asked to sit on that panel. golly might it have something do to with the fact that i am closer to 50 than 30 and i have been farming for nearly 2 decades?

back to the lovely gathering. once i settled into the room hosted at the Nashville Food Project. i jumped into every possible opportunity to meet new friends and talk of our favorite shared love: farming. the event was purposefully loosely formatted offering us all the chance to ask and answer. the women were from middle tennessee and south central kentucky’s  most awesome farms: here and there and here and there  and here and so many others. i left the meeting enthused about the season, encouraged about the future of sustainable agriculture and confident in my place along the spectrum. i am not a young farmer. i am a seasoned farmer. i still have a lot to learn, but i have some wisdom from the years of working this land and marketing our farm’s product. as we prepare ourselves and our land for the season that lies ahead, i am excited. there is still so much to learn but with each year as i gain experience, i have more and more to share with those younger than me.

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and hey, i can still turn a bed around with the best of ’em……

breaking the rules

We have been hosting people here since we arrived ourselves. in the earliest years those guests were predominantly family and close friends. we offered nothing but clean air, a cool creek for a dip on a hot summer’s day, the freshest food and plenty, i mean plenty, of hard work. as the years passed more and more folks wanted to come here and we began our apprenticeship program. we have welcomed short and long visitors from around the world into our little hollow, we have worked alongside so many people and we have learned a lot. i dare not try to record all the lessons here, for there are so many. instead, i am going to talk about one of our cardinal rules and why we just had to break it, just this once.

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we take winters off from hosting. we work so hard during those long summer months, in the fields and integrating visitors into the farm. winter becomes much needed family time, one of reflection and time indoors. so, what does one do when one gets this kind of email on an early december day?

Greetings, My name is Caryn and I’m travelling south from Canada. I’ve been a wwoof host for many years (Smoothwater of Temagami)and now it’s my turn to wwoof. I understand what you are doing with your farm/lifestyle/community work. I have many skills that you may enjoy: culinary, bee keeping, equine massage, gardening, education to name a few. I’m living in my truck camper with two wonderful cats and I’m towing one horse. All I ask is for a good place for my mare, and some miles to ride her. I’m not sure we’re a good fit. But it doesn’t hurt to inquire. What are your thoughts? Best wishes, Caryn

obviously, we break our cardinal rule. clearly we have to meet this person.  for those of you embarking on a rural life, especially those that have left a more urban reality, sometimes you miss the diversity, the exposure. for us, to address that limitation of rural life, we try always to bring as much of that to our home as possible.  with so many interesting qualities, we assured our guest that we could accommodate her and her horse.

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when she arrived with the above rig, we questioned our sanity. i am sure Caryn did as well. but after a couple hours of problem solving, tricky driving maneuvers and a great team effort we got our guests settled in their temporary camp here at our farm.

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after dark we shared a meal and stories. today, the sun shone for the first time in a long while.  we were all thrilled for the companionship, for the extra set of hands working in the solar warmed high tunnel, and the simple added delight of a new friend.  sometimes, just once in a while, breaking your own rules is a good thing.

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i am standing in the middle of your dream

paul and i were married on our farm, 2 years nearly to the day after we signed the papers deeming us land owners. we were surrounded by dear ones from near and far, friends old and new, and had our first born (then a toddler) with us as we exchanged our vows. during the ceremony we asked that anyone moved to speak do so. many shared their thoughts and feelings on that august day. one friend, a dutch woman we met years before while living and working in indonesia, shared her joy with all in attendance as she realized she stood there in the midst of our dream. even then, over a decade ago, our farm still in its infancy, it was clear to those that knew us, we are actively, energetically, pursuing our dream.

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we are solidly on our path now, just 2 weeks shy of completing our 15th year of CSA deliveries, our farm business thrives. we have built these acres from the ground up, erecting homes and barns and shelters and greenhouses. our family has grown, our farm has expanded and guess what? so have our dreams! we have this funny little habit of constantly stretching ourselves. looking back proudly on all we have accomplished in these 16 years here, we also look ahead excitedly to our next project: the hill and hollow farm stay.

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an integral part of our work is cultivating community: the eaters that consume the food we grow, the young farmers who gather monthly for our CRAFT meetings, the apprentices that work and learn with us. short and long term guests have been a part of our lives from this farm’s beginnings. we know now that to truly further the educational work that we do, we need more infrastructure. we need the space to host, share and educate the ever growing number of folks that NEED to reconnect with their food supply and spend time surrounded by the simple restorative beauty of nature.

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to that end, we have purchased an amazing property just miles from our main farm. we have actively begun restoring the hundred year old farm house to accommodate guests and now the time has come to renovate the old farm kitchen. we want it to be a certified facility to allow us to truly share all that we have to offer. in this kitchen we will teach guests how to make cheese from fresh milk and how to preserve the summer’s bounty. in this kitchen, we will cook and serve any and all that want to dine on foods fresh from the fields prepared with loving hands.

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we are running an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to raise money to complete this project. now, we are sending our message out far and wide: join us. delight in the excitement. consider a donation. dare to share this invitation with a friend. dive into the middle of our dreams. we want you to.

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