Someone recently asked me what a day on the farm looks like and I realized I hadn’t written about it because it would be like having to describe my life. It’s simple, yet complex. It’s fun, yet hard work-that is, if you choose to work hard. It’s creative. It’s constant problem solving and there are new experiences everyday. Sure, there are moments of monotonous, assembly line type manual labor but that sounds like most jobs; at least I’m outside and not sitting underneath fluorescent lights. http://www.ehso.com/fluorescent_safety.php
Just know that my interpretation of a day on the farm is mostly infused with thoughts racing through my mind about how screwed up our society is while simultaneously giving thanks to… (fill in the blank)… for everything that is provided for us.
Much of the time I just wonder.
As we are carrying 220lbs of pears from our first harvest (from one tree!) I wonder why public education ignores the things that sustain us. Students rarely learn about food production; I mean real food production. As I’m prepping pears for dehydration I laugh to myself, “Don’t talk to me about the Food Pyramid.” I’ll go from zero to cynical as quickly as obesity and diabetes are sweeping our well-fed citizens. Most people can’t recognize plants when they are in the ground. We are so far removed from food production that really, I’m not surprised at the things we eat and what we waste http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/school_lunch.htm. We are training our students to believe that a healthy lunch is whatever we put in front of them but then why is everyone that I speak to in agreement about the shortfalls of school lunches. Instead of forming a committee on campus that decides whether we should have Pepsi or Coke in the vending machines, we could have a committee looking to make a partnership with a farm to put real food in front of our children. http://www.marinorganic.org/organic_school_lunch.php
As I’m killing squash bugs and saving another squash plant, I wonder why we label food. Very few people read labels; they read prices. Those of us who do read labels are usually buying food that doesn’t require a label. To tell an adult to read a label requires education. Most people don’t know what to look for so why aren’t we teaching our students to do this at an early age? You don’t need to label a peach because, imagine this, it only contains peach, unless of course it’s not grown organically and/or you buy it canned at a store. In that case it might contain, “Peaches, Pears, Water, Grapes, Corn Syrup, Pineapple, Sugar, Colored Cherries (Del Monte’s FRUIT COCKTAIL IN LIGHT SYRUP) Have you ever tried a piece of fruit? Yeah, so they are kinda like, sweet. Why would we add corn syrup? And I won’t even ask about colored cherries because everyone knows (unless of course you are color blind) that cherries are red. What other color would make cherries better? I’ll bet the smart scientists/marketing majors at Del Monte know. All I know is that we canned (which actually is in glass jar-confusing I know) apricots at the farm and the only thing we put in them was ascorbic acid.
I dig another post-hole and wonder why we allow children access to harmful marketing such as alcohol, cigarettes, and McDonalds, knowing they’ll get hooked for life, yet we don’t bother to teach them about nutrition. Again, don’t talk to me about the Food Pyramid because if that’s nutritional education, Wal-Mart and Monsanto are ethical corporations.
I wonder what education should look like as a farmhand gently breaks off small pieces of an egg so a hatching chick can work its way out. If only kids could see this. A chick being born in my hand. No kid that would be off task if holding that egg. Want kids to focus? Give them something meaningful to do. I hear so many people say things like, “I don’t remember anything I learned in high school” or “I don’t use anything that I learned” but one of my favorite is, “I have learned everything I need to do my job, at my job.” Now I can certainly generalize and say that public education is ridiculous, but there is something inherently scary about these statements. I don’t feel that learning is pointless, there’s just a lot of pointless learning. If we aren’t using much of what we learn in school, why are we there? Could it be that schools are simply a microcosm of society and that we are ensuring that when students ‘graduate’ they are ready to join the mindless mass of zombies that have learned to listen and act according to what we are fed? It would be interesting to see if the distance between snack machines on a school campus is directly proportional to the distance between corner markets in our cities. These markets sell the most harmful products. I can’t even call it food but it’s what our students are used to since we have ‘educated’ them.
So, while I’m wondering, I’m working. I helped build a barbed wire fence for a few days. It’s not the most glamorous job, but it beats cleaning the pig pen and once I got the hang of working with barbed wire, I enjoyed it. Plus, putting up a fence is a satisfying job. At the end of our multi-day fence building we were able to move the horses from their small field to about 3 acres of grazing land. They didn’t thank me out loud but I know they were thinking it. I feel like I have a closer connection to the horses and recently have been having fun with them. I’ll walk by them with a big yellow bucket full of apples or pears and they go nuts. They will cut me off to dive their heads down into the buckets so I figured I’d play hard to get and started running. Only one likes to chase but I quickly had to start turning sharp corners and going around trees to keep away. It made me wonder; how many students have ever interacted with an animal like that? It put a smile on my face and I’m sure that in a class of 35 students one of them would be bound to fall in love with horses and decide to learn more about them. I can’t help but think how little exposure students get to real jobs.
Usually we start around 7:30 and break around 12:30. If it’s really hot, we will take a three to four hour break and pick up again at 4 and go until 8 or so. Sometimes, I’ll plow right through the heat of the day with a quick lunch and finish my hours by 5. It’s a long day and my body is tired but not only did I get a good work out, I feel like I’m one step closer to learning how to connect students to a meaningful education.
And that’s how my time is spent – between work and wondering.
To see more photos from El Rincon Farm de Los Trujillos, visit http://elrinconfarm.com