Category: Farmers Journal

Intro-  The long and personal version is here in an essay I wrote awhile back:

The short, is that I have been admiring the work of the The Growing Home/Club for many years now; always feeling that I had come home when with Manju, Rishi and family. For years, connection to them has sustained me in my gardening experiments at home (can you say mulch?). When they started the internship program, I was filled with longing to be there, but didn’t think I could because I homeschool. After a recent visit there, Manju said about Maya, “She’s ready for the internship program.”  I was thrilled to hear this and asked if we could do the internship as a family. For years, I have been integrating nature connection, gardening, and earth based/indigenous wisdom into my holistic counseling and family support practice..and I knew that being at the farm would only help to deepen all of these understandings.  As well as, help us as a family to really integrate the practical knowledge and experience we will need when we move to our own, much dreamed of, ‘little plot of land.’


In the first couple weeks, I have reflected that Manju and Rishi were so wise to split us up into groups so that the children could have some independence and make their own friendships. It has been so touching to me to see the way all of the adults are so respectful and kind as they interact with each one.  Sabriel was especially supported by Elinor who brought child sized gloves, tools, shovels and a wheelbarrow to the farm (lent from her Montessori school).  He has been so delighted to use all of these and is thriving with all of the warm attention and interest shown in him.

While a part of me, is partly always ‘on call’ as mama, I am actually feeling unexpectedly free at the farm because all of my children are so engrossed and busy, supported by mentors. I tear up and feel so touched every time I think about this; it feels like the village I have always wanted and wish that every child could experience. We were going to be traveling more this year, but slowed that down in order to participate in the internship. Still, when we are there I feel like I am worlds away from the status quo, busyness, competitiveness and madness of our culture. It is regenerative farming, and life. I know we are right where we need to be right now.

On a practical level, I am also learning so much. Having tried and only sporadically succeeded to grow my own seedlings, I am appreciating the systematic and informed approach to caring for seedlings that is done on the farm. A big ‘aha’ was that I need to use fish fertilizer because the seedlings go through the nutrients in the soil. I also see that I need a more organized set up and routine. I learn best by doing, so I am hoping these rhythms will be ingrained into me.

And then there are the perks of connecting with the interns and other ‘farmily!’  We spent a couple days at Elinor and Elizabeth’s school learning how to make our own sheaths for our pruners (which their amazing students taught us).  Everyone felt so proud of themselves! And Elinor has been teaching nutrition classes and preparing feasts that are supporting so much of our countercultural approach to food. These classes and conversations with Manju about cooking, are more of the tribe I have longed for; it is so nice not to be the only one saying these things anymore!

Intro- Why did you come to the farm? “Uhh, because you took me. That’s why mom!”

What do you enjoy at the farm? “Everything!”

What are your favorite things? “Being with the chickens, compost and harvesting”

What did you do with the chickens this week? “Getting them in their coops. One time I helped make their feed, not make it but put the powder, with the shovel and the seeds.”

(Another day) We were looking for roly polys to feed them”

What do you do enjoy about composting? “shoveling, pushing the wheelbarrow….I don’t really have a favorite, I loove it all!”

 (Here I am showing Brooke the sheath I made with Elizabeth and her students!)

What did you build with Rishi ? “Well we made the sink work. We glued a pipe with glue, …there was a pipe and then we attached a hose and then we attached the hose to the sink…and after we fixed it, we tested it”

“Then we found a bucket with a rubber tube attached, white rubber, you know how sometimes rubber is white…then we tested it again and it worked!”

Intro- I am here because my mom and I have been really into gardening. When my mom found out about this internship, she told us that she was going to sign us up, and I got really excited!

On our way there, on the first day, I was wondering what it was going to be like being one of the youngest interns. The first day there was great! The field management team (my team) was shown around the farm. Another day we were shown how to set gopher traps. It was hard for me to get it though. One day there was a giant pile of mulch that we spread over the trench on the left side of the farm. I was amazed that we got it all done in one day!

It’s been cool getting to know my fellow team mates and the other interns. I enjoyed harvesting and talking with Chika. Thinning the plants is my favorite so far. Every morning on a farm day, I wake up early, excited and ready for a day at the farm!


Intro-   I’m here because my mom decided to do the farm internship.

At first I thought I wouldn’t like it, but since coming I’ve found that I actually enjoy it. I especially enjoyed shoveling the compost and learning how a compost pile is built. Another day I helped build a lizard house by laying down bricks then covering them with layered sticks. We built it because lizards like small spaces where they can hide. Another thing I like about being at the farm is talking to the other interns. I’ve had some good conversations. As you can tell I’m not really a blogger (at all) so…the end.

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to go to the Compost/Coffee/Heart medicine workshop and the facilitator Celena de Luna walked us through a dope tea ceremony where we sat with the tea and imagined what the herb looked like and what our hearts looked like. She later asked us what did we see in our hearts and I was too embarrassed/ felt kind of too vulnerable to share. But lol I’m willing to share here.

For me, this particularly tea and looking into my heart was actually kind of scary/painful. At first I felt a big bold jolt maybe a boom and I could sense that that was the first barrier being released. Then, I felt a silent stillness and slowly all I could feel and see were scars, some old but some new. Those scars slowly pulsed into a sort of grounding rhythm. I had no idea what the herb was or looked like, I assumed it was like a berry/flower thing and felt that I was just trying to project that into my vision… I have a horrible habit of pressuring myself to think or act in a certain way, I have a very hard time just letting myself be free. It’s almost like the more I try to be free, the more I analyze and judge myself for how free was I really being… (a very strange mean girls-esque habit that I’m working on).

Later in the class we learned that the herb was hawthorne and is in the rose family and helps to protect our heart. It can replace aspirin and helps lower blood pressure and allows for focus as it clears our arteries and holds a strong energy that helps to bring us to safety. We learned about so many other herbs and their relationship to the heart and I was just blown away with how all of these plant medicines work together to give so much to us humans. Each plant she explained has so many characteristics and healing properties. It was also very cool to learn things from other people in the workshop that also shared their different knowledges about the herbs and plants. The CCC was enlightening in that the space created for synergistic relationship building. Synergy is a key theme in Elinor’s nutrition class where we are learning about how everything in the ecosystem works together to bring nutrients to one another.

I often hear the phrase, Food is Medicine, but this week this phrase has deepened its significance and roots inside me. even though I’m sure corps like Whole Foods commodify the phrase to boost its profits… remember that food as medicine doesn’t have to be inaccessible! it never was in the past…

Cooking Project:

I’ve been a bit behind/ to tell you the truth… exhausted. My heart and compassion goes out to all the servers, busboys, cooks, dishwashers, and service workers who work that min. wage/hardly no tip/40+ hours life. These past few weeks I was presented the challenge of cooking for my family while my mom worked late… my family in particular my dad, is one hard person to please. His palette despises garlic and anything that veers away from traditional Japanese flavors… (even though a lot of Japanese food is adapted from other cultures!) I love garlic and love to eat other cuisines and my cooking just kind of reflects that.

But here’s some things that passed my dad’s taste test:

  • Sara-udon: originally a Chinese dish. In Japanese it just mean plate noodles. lol so lame. In Vietnamese it is called mỳ xào tôm thịt– which translates to bird’s nest with shrimp and pork- which totally makes better sense. The noodles create a birds nest and on top you have your stir fry that is thickened with starch water. For this dish I feature pak choi from Sarvodaya farms!
  • I tried to make braised pork: Buta-no-kakuni 豚の角煮 which translates to cubed pork lol another lame one. I used garlic chives from the farm as a substitute for green onions to stew the meat. The dish also uses ginger. So because I was using loin and not the belly…. the meat wasn’t as soft as I would have liked it but it was eaten.

  • Still working on that dressing… haven’t had time to be creative.

“…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.

With Sincerity,

Tyler Silvestre

Organic foods have always seemed like luxury items to me. Throughout all the years I was a student I would buy the cheapest produce at the local grocery store, trying to find ways to eat a healthy well-balanced diet while scrounging up every last penny I had (I ate a lot of bananas, curry, and natto!). After I started working full-time I began buying more organic produce. More than any great attentiveness to the food I eat, this was based on a conscious consumerism, trying to support businesses that were making steps toward being ethically produced and environmentally friendly.

Before Elinor’s lecture last Friday, I had only this narrow perspective on the importance of organic foods. I had noticed during our meals that I had gotten full much faster than I normally do, and even when I wanted to power through and keep eating, I had completely lost my appetite. When Elinor brought up the tables comparing the nutritional content of conventionally grown vs organic foods it was like being hit with a lightning bolt. Organic tomatoes have 500 times more nutrients than conventionally grown tomatoes? Lettuce has TWO THOUSAND times more?? As Elinor explained, when your body is still craving certain vitamins and minerals it will encourage you to keep eating, which oftentimes means consuming empty carbohydrates.

On top of that, these foods that we consume on a daily basis are sprayed terrifyingly wide array of chemicals with little known side effects. I was taken aback by the possible connections between consuming these many different chemicals and the increasing rise of allergies, gluten sensitivities, and obesity (I shudder thinking about all the unwashed apples I’ve eaten in my lifetime). What if my digestive disorder is also a result of ingesting pesticides? The fact that there is so little research into these possible connections is very disquieting.

So, Elinor won me over. Organic foods are not just an ethical choice, but probably linked to a wide variety of public health problems. But what about the issue of accessibility? Navigating our food choices might not just be costly, but it can also be confusing parsing through all the competing messages and labels that are present in our supermarkets. All-natural versus non-GMO, versus Organic, versus Locally Farmed – sometimes it feels like you need a degree just to fill up your shopping cart! After the lecture, many of the interns were approaching Elinor asking, where do you buy your meat? Where do you buy your coconut oil? Thankfully for us, Elinor is a fountain of knowledge about organic foods. But how do we make this information accessible to folks everywhere? How do we break down the many barriers that stand in the way of people’s ability to live healthy lives?

As advocates of organic farming and organic produce, it’s clear that we will have to do more than just increase awareness of the dangers of modern day agricultural practices. We will need to push for systemic change that relieves the burden on the individual, and instead strives for new regulatory and economic structures that support sustainability and human health over corporate profit. Organic foods can’t remain a luxury for the few, but must be attainable for the many. Because if it isn’t accessible to the poor, it isn’t radical.

Hello beautiful people! I hope everyone had a lovely week and weekend. This morning I went to the Claremont Farmer’s market. Now, I have been to a farmer’s market before but I never purchased any items. Usually, I would just walk around and observe what vendors were selling. But, today was different and I attribute this change to Elinor’s Food Preparation and Nutrition Course. Also, working on the farm has made me really think about what I am eating. A few weeks ago when all the interns sat around and checked in, Manju asked us to define health and my answer was treating my body as a temple. Unfortunately, I have not been treating my body that way religiously. But, working at Sarvodaya and being exposed to so much information on plants and food has made me taken a serious stance on what I am eating. Furthermore, I will be turning 26 years old this year (OMG) and I really want to have a healthy functioning body as I get older.

Along with eating healthy I must also include physical activity in my life. Earlier this week I saw a show on Netflix called Abstract: The Art of Design. It features various artists from different industries whose works shape the world we live in today. They featured Nike’s Air Jordans designer Tinker Hatfield. This guy has blood of an 18 year old. He skates, surfs, does crossfit etc. and he is 65 years old! I can’t even walk outside my house! As soon as I take those first steps outside my heart is pumping, I’m out of breath. I don’t really feel like that but I am a lazy slob. But I want to be that guy when I am 65 years old. I need to approach physical activity in a different way. Like Traci said a couple of Wednesday’s ago health also includes your mind and spirit. There is so much that I am learning but I am really happy that I get to work and interact with awesome people that really care to make a difference.

This week I conquered my fear of setting gopher traps. Gophers are destructive on the farm with many plants being destroyed. Because the gophers live in tunnels underground, and because the cats roam around freely at the farm, the farm staff has been setting wire gopher traps and placing them down the hole and inside the tunnels (placing a pink flag by the trap to warn us humans). These traps are like a typical rodent snap trap, but slightly more complicated to set. I initially decided gopher trapping would not be my “thing” because I was afraid of the “snap.” My teammate Chika caught one gopher in a trap she set last week, which was a relief to me to have Chika become the go-to-gopher-catcher NOT ME. Fast forward to this week when Chika demonstrated to me how the traps are set and how there is no chance of my fingers being snapped if I place my hands in a certain area of the trap. Something about the way she explained it made something click (or perhaps I should say “snap”) in my mind and I finally GOT IT. Not only did I set two traps, I wasn’t afraid of holding a trap willy nilly in my hand while enthusiastically sticking my other hand in holes looking for a good tunnel. I kind of surprised myself that I got so into gopher trapping.

The photo above is of Chika upon finding a three way gopher mansion along the southside fence of the farm. This hole had tunnels extending in both directions. I  stuck my hand in the tunnel and set my trap on the 90 degree tunnel to the left; Chika set her trap on the 90 degree tunnel to the right. Hopefully the rest is farm history. We’ll find out this week what we caught. Of course if we are successful, I will then have to get over my phobia of seeing dead rodents in the trap lol.  But all this served as a reminder to be less afraid of the potential snaps in life and always go for what makes me happy.

Head Farmer Rishi just ordered a sound wave gopher repellent that has a range of 1/3 acre. We will be setting that in the middle of the farm next week after we get 4 “D” batteries for it. Who knows if this contraption will work or if it is just profiting Duracell. It looks pretty groovy and it will be nice if it eliminates the need to kill gophers. I think with anything, we just have to do as many things as we can to try to eliminate them, and we may never know exactly what worked. I did some reading about gophers, and apparently they hate the smell of dog crap (Melissa was the one who first brought this up), Tasbasco, coffee and moth balls (which are actually a neurotoxin), so I vote for using spicy coffee in the holes.

While I may not have initially been a natural at gopher traps, it seems I have a knack for spotting cabbage worms. I got three to every one else’s zero. I scored big points with the chickens who promptly ate the found worms I tossed to them. So if you are looking for me on the farm, you might find me lost in the cabbage aisle looking for more worms. Or not.

As some of you may know I love cats. I think they are the cutest things and I was so happy to see so many of them when I first stepped foot on the farm. It sealed the deal and then I knew this was the place for me. Although these guys don’t let me pet them and often run away when I get too close I still hope that one day they will let me love them. With that being said I decided to write about some of the cool things that cats can do! Hope you enjoy it!
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