“Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: “What does his voice sound like?” “What games does he like best?” “Does he collect butterflies?” They ask: “How old is he?” “How many brothers does he have?” “How much does he weigh?” “How much money does his father make?” Only then do they think they know him. … So if you tell them: “ the proof of the little prince’s existence is that he was delightful, that he laughed, and that he wanted a sheep. When someone wants a sheep, that proves he exists,” they shrug their shoulders and treat you like a child! But if you tell them, “ The planet he came from is Asteroid B-612,” then they’ll be convinced, and they won’t bother you with their questions. That’s the way they are. You must not hold it against them.”
– The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Two and a half months is how long we, as a STUFA class, have been here at Maggie’s farm. So much has happened in that seemingly short period of time. Our country has elected a new president, the South Koreans are impeaching theirs. Fidel Castro has given up the ghost and 24,710,000 new babies have been born. Two and a half months, ten weeks, seventy days, a quarter of a cow’s gestation period. By this time, the successfully bred of our beef and dairy herds will be carrying a calf fetus the size of a grapefruit with fully developed hooves. Two full butterfly life cycles could have been completed. 10 weeks is the time it takes to raise a broiler chicken for slaughter and the time it takes a kale plant, a carrot, or a radish, to develop from seed into a harvestable vegetable. By the time we leave the farm for our Holiday break, we will have fed the beef herd thirty-six round bales and refilled their water trough two hundred and ten times. We will have collected over five thousand chicken eggs! We will have eaten over a hundred meals together as a group at the two, well worn tables in the house at 80 Athol Road.
There is a surprising amount of life that can happen in the span of two and a half months. Most of our class of fifteen will be leaving to return to homes and families for a thirty day break from work, and chores, and sleeping in a bunk house heated with cord wood. And how will we explain what we have been up to? Will I try to describe the cheerful sound of laughter that usually greets me when I walk into breakfast everyday? Or the warm scent of Emily (the dairy cow) that lingers after a morning of hand milking? Will I try to paint a picture of a sunrise after a fresh snow? Or try to explain what fertile soil feels like when held in an open palm. Probably not. More likely, I will say things like, “ I live with fifteen other people. We eat almost 30 eggs a day. Did you know that you can charge twelve dollars a pound for a well-run meat CSA?”
There are so many reasons to be getting into organic farming today and my own personal reasons are manifold. It is not only because the local organic food movement is a new and booming industry ripe for getting in at the ground level. It is not only because we are young and idealistic and think that farming and working the land might be the best platform for enacting social justice or reversing climate change. It is not only because we love food and want to share it. It is also, and especially, for those moments that are much harder to describe but mean everything. The moments Ben Holmes likes to call the “texture”of life, moments that you encounter on a daily basis on a farm like this one, if you are looking for them. The moments that would better be described by poetry than prose.