I've been away for awhile. Even my mom noticed. She asked me to post an article so she can read something new. The last time I wrote was in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. It was back when this goldenrod squash plant was just a seed, dry and still in its paper packet. By now the aftermath has turned into recovery efforts and bracing for the future storms. The seeds are turned to golden squash, ripening towards a future harvest. Life continues. Yet where, exactly, did the time go?
The best kick in the pants came in the form of a call from an Al-Jazeera America reporter just after my birthday. She somehow found this blog and requested an interview to talk about the rise of minorities and women in farming. I had plenty to say...but felt, somehow, embarrassed and inappropriate, even. What could I say? Thanks for finding my blog...which has lain fallow for 6 months? Thanks for asking, but I'm the wrong person? I don't have a lease to show, my soul thirsts in the city, and yes, I need a better game plan because my nails are now (disturbingly) dirt-free? How do you explain what it means to not fall asleep in that same wonderful tired way at night?
So I talked about the drought, of folks' of color and complex ancestral ties to agriculture, and the stark financial reality of business. Those are all real, formidable, even respectable barriers. The media may have us fall in love with alluring stories of the next generation of farmers. Yet old and young alike also struggle to stay afloat while facing big, deep problems that are changing the world for all of us (climate change! drought!). We see a rennaissance in food education, yet long-standing garden programs are also chopped by school districts.
Some bright young things go off to Silicon Valley to build (often useless) apps and make 6-figure salaries, while other bright young things go off to other valleys to build soil yet in the end, may be unable to sustain themselves or the labor of love they poured sweat into. Life, it turns out, is beautiful. It also isn't fair.
There are real barriers to a life of the soil. Yet...the traces of cynicism in my voice scared me. It sounded like a cover to not fully try and perhaps fail gloriously. Age has tempered idealism. At 30, I am not who I was at 23 or 27. I am more in the material and pragmatic realm. This past year I've been amazed at the imperfect blessing of health and dental coverage. I don't wash my laundry in a bucket and hang it to dry on trees anymore. I floss regularly. I have a closet that holds several pieces of "work clothes" that you can't do real work in. I am lucky. And now I am doing a truly detestable MIllenial thing, humble-bragging or whatever on social media.
The reporter was kind yet relentless. She asked what the dream would look like, and how much it would really cost to get there. She told me that the 30's are the best yet (I said "thank you"). And she asked what was keeping me from a life that included farming. By this point I decided she was not a real reporter at all, and instead must be some ordained voice from the Universe, asking the unsightly but real questions we hide from ourselves like dirty socks under the bed.
So what's a 30-year-old to do? Hopefully, something like the picture above. It was taken in 2011 while I was in training as an apprentice at the Santa Cruz CASFS Farm and Garden program. Nearly every morning, before breakfast, I would awaken early, journal, and stalk beautiful things in the garden.
I still remember this little bee. Heavy, wings and fuzzy body covered with liquid, it clambered slowly over a leafy landscape. Although temporarily unable to fly, it was still intent on getting wherever it was that it needed to go, albeit at a slower pace.