Tough hands are tender too;
Grazing the dust of day,
And melting the frost by her fingertips.
Swales become of her footsteps
And palms pressed to the dirt,
But she will mulch again.
The aching half-acre,
Reaching to the King,
Is honored by the harvest.
Is it by twink’ling blade
Or tumbling sparrow?
She knows the time of glory:
To draft from beds the ready greens,
To send to hungry souls afar;
To set kindness at the table.
O, how the clouds descend to greet her!
And every time I leave the farm,
A pearl is heard laughing in the distance–
And I smile.
“This light momentary affliction is does compare with the eternal weight of glory.”
Things get harder, but its too hard to quit. This week was a special one for me, especially because I felt so refreshed. Between school, work, and the farm, its really easy sometimes to give up on one or focus too much on another. Sometimes its just too easy to check out of all of it, especially when I get caught up in the task. Somehow, things changed for me this week. I finally caught up with my breath and I found the rhythm of my steps. Even the things that were insignificant were filled with life. I felt reanimated, and it was as though color had returned to the earth. I think so much of this was the result of realization. At last, I saw why I struggled for so long and what that struggling was for. My turmoil was directly correlated to forgetting my purpose in life, forgetting the fact that I was created to love.
I started the week tired, unsure of how I would survive the days soon ahead. I was frustrated at the idea of mulching the farm, but my frustration doesn’t change my responsibility– it changes my response. Still, I fought my frustrations and mulched the farm anyways. My heart quickly changed from burdened to sweet, feeling like I earned the sweat on my forehead and the dirt collecting in my fingerprints. Its funny that when you fight past your emotions, you realize how much you love what you do, or how much you love the people around you. I think much of what I am saying can be summarized in this way: “We endure suffering, knowing that the end is secure”. I know that I love being at the farm, and I love laboring for all the small parts of Sarvodaya’s ecology. I know that I love people, and I love laboring for them too. All too often, I get strung on my emotions over the little things. For a moment, I think my frustration matters and that mulching doesn’t. For a moment, I think my comfort matters, and that somebody else’s needs doesn’t. But I know that if I look past myself and my feelings, I can see the good in my labor. I know that mulching matters, and that laying cover to the farm contributes to the percent organic matter, it helps prevent weed infestation, it reduces soil compaction, etc.. I know that helping my friend matters, that sacrificing my comfort makes them feel understood, and most importantly, loved.
Its so important to look past what you feel in the moment and peer into what is most important, whether it be loving the farm or loving others. Despite our tiredness, our weakness, our misunderstanding, our shortcomings– let us look beyond our light, temporal affliction because it does not compare with a deep and radiant love.
“…and to His beloved, He gives rest.”
I often use achievements as the standard for my self-worth. Especially as somebody still so young, I look far forward to potential life and career opportunities, but often look past the moments that are now. This causes me to ignore the important things of my present life, such as loving others and letting others love me. This causes me to ignore my present pains– the shortness of breath, the rumbling of my stomach, the weight of my eyes. I get caught up.
For awhile now, I’ve been forced to learn two important lessons. The first, is to slow down. The future isn’t the top of the mountain, its the next step on the trail that leads there. My family, career, and community are all things that I dream of having in the future, but for as bad as I want those things, I have to trust that the present moments aren’t keeping me from that. Instead, they are preparing me in advance. How precious are these times, and how sacred of a gift it is for me to have today to learn myself. The moment is a good thing, and I want to rest my future on that. So until then, I need to slow down and not speed ahead. I think that a lot of that starts with how I relate to people, listening first and answering thoughtfully. I think that it builds on my lessons from last week too, in that I need to humble myself and step into these days focused not on how I can change the things around me, but rather how the things around me can change me. The farm seems to put that into perspective. I can’t rush the plants to harvest, and the fruit itself becomes more beautiful amidst the context of what it took to grow it; I think people are the same way. The other lesson I’ve been learning is how to celebrate others. I have to remind myself all the time that my life isn’t about me. I believe that life should be about how I can best serve and love others. After all, I think we really find purpose in the way that we can offer ourselves, especially for things that are greater than ourselves. The farm really shows that too. Growing plants has nothing to do with me. Really, my place on the farm is mostly concerned with how I can steward the land I’ve been trusted with. It really is our duty to celebrate nature. Next to slowing things down, the second element to harvest is celebration. Its a grand experience to pick the carrots from the ground, the peas from the stem, and flowers for a friend. We celebrate nature through our cooking of food, our smiling at the dirt, and the laying in the field. It is in celebration, and in slowing down, that my soul can find rest.
These are the lessons I have learned, the lessons I will learn again.
“Humble yourself, therefore… so at the proper time you may be exalted.”
It’s no surprise that some times are harder than others. Lately, I’ve been slowly disconnecting myself from my needless “vanities”. Perhaps working on the farm has something to do with that, regardless, the last week of my life has lead me into personal conviction and healthful reflection. I started by removing social media from my life. I don’t think that social media is always bad, and I am happy to see that I have friends that still enjoy its function and entertainment. Personally, I wouldn’t allow myself to totally reject social media’s helpfulness because it has lead me to various work opportunities, as well as my current housing situation. Although many of my friends see me as somebody that is present in conversation and sincere in my doings, I still felt as though social media was limiting the depth of my empathy. The idea that I was more connected, ironically, made me less connected.
So I took away the noise in my life.
One of the best parts about working on a farm is that time and time again, we are forced to face ourselves. From a young age, many of us are taught that we can change our surroundings to fit our vision, but that has left us self-absorbed and stubborn. Farming teaches us the opposite. Planting seeds, laying compost, building irrigation, and sitting with the chicken were all the things I got to experience this week. All this was not me changing the earth, but the earth changing me. Laying compost and shaping beds by hand forced me to face my personal frustrations, delights, and emotional burdens. The way a flower can so confidently carry it’s beauty makes me feel vulnerable. I learned that If I want to be a successful grower, and successful in my life, then I have to start by reshaping my heart.
It’s hard not to think more of ourselves than is actually true, and I want to be humbled. It’s so hard to listen, but I want to be patient. It’s hard to be engaged, and I don’t want to miss out. It’s impossible to be perfect, so I’ll attempt excellence.
The hardest part about this week was facing myself and my shortcomings. Thankfully, it’s less of a lesson of weakness and more of an opportunity for growth. I’m very excited for this upcoming week, and I can’t want to see what the farm has waiting for me. I’m prepared to be better connected to the earth and the other interns. I want to be more sincere.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”.
There is so much to learn at Sarvodaya; I am learning about the farm, I am learning about myself. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that I need to slow down. Over the last few years, I’ve somehow made my life fast paced, busy, and tired but I know that I’ve been chasing after wind. Initially, I didn’t realize how farming could be so healing, but it absolutely is. Farming is so contrary to so much of what I have been taught! Its humbling, that instead of me doing something to the earth, it is the earth doing something to me. I need to slow down.
I have been pondering meekness lately. As best as I can understand, meekness is the combination of two qualities. The first is to have a simple posture, approaching things with distinct kindness and gentleness. The second is to have a type of patience that waits to be taught and guided by something greater than myself. My last few weeks at Sarvodaya have left me thoughtful and desiring of these qualities, and I can see myself growing into it.
Alongside learning about myself, I’ve been learning about the farm too. I have quickly fallen in love with taking care of the chickens. I am noticing a sense of compassion welling up inside me for the birds, and I can notice them starting to become familiar with me. It is special to dote over these sweet birds, to share with my friends candid pictures of the chicken, and to smile at the thought of this newly found friendship.
There are very technical aspects to foraging with chicken. The birds are temporarily stationed in a designated row between the stone fruit trees. Once the row has been totally foraged and fertilized, we move them over again to forage the next row. This type of rotation has significant impacts on the orchard ecology and soil fertility. As wild grasses become overgrown in the aisles between the trees, they begin to fix nitrogen into the soil. Nitrogen is a plant macronutrient, meaning that it is one of the most essential elements for plant survival and development. For the trees specifically, the soil available nitrogen will be taken up through the root system and then will positively impact the photosynthetic process; nitrogen is a major component of chlorophyll. Once the low-level vegetation has become overgrown, we allow the chicken to scratch and forage the area. The greens that they eat add nutrition to their diet, and the greens that they scratch will decay and contribute carbon to the soil. In addition, the insects that are foraged from the land is a source of nutrition for the chicken. When the chicken poop on the landscape, it also contributes nitrogen to the land. Therefore, when chicken are utilized properly, they can make drastic impacts on the ecology and nutrient cycling of an area.
My name is Tyler Silvestre.
Sometimes I have a lot to say, and sometimes I don’t.
I was raised in Sacramento, CA and enrolled as a Plant Science student at Cal Poly Pomona in August, 2015. I had no prior knowledge about the vastness, the necessity, and the importance of the agricultural industry. Since my enrollment, my life has changed. Slow-stepping into discovering who I am, my heart for learning about, and spending time with, the earth has done nothing short of increase. I’m confessing to you this: I blindly chose Plant Science as my major, and my ignorance about agriculture was an injustice.
I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it simply matters where you go, and I couldn’t be more happy with where my life is taking me. Little did I know that choosing agriculture would be one of the best decisions of my life, and hardly did I know that it wouldn’t just be a career path for me.
Theres a quote: “From your heart flow the springs of life”. This relates to me deeply. I know that as I continue to grow as an agricultural professional, the lives around me will naturally change too. I want to be somebody that helps, gives, and loves others. I think agriculture is a great way of doing that; I want to farm with my heart.
I’m excited to see what the next 18 weeks have ahead of me. I’m excited to be challenged, to hurt, to learn, and to ultimately be humbled.