It has been some kind of week. For starters, the farm has been trying to fight off double story condo’s that developers want to build in the empty lot nextdoor. This would be disastrous for the farm, because it would decrease and block out sunlight throughout the fields, leading to a drastic decrease in farmable space. On Wednesday night I joined the crew as we huddled together to present (1) why the farm is a great part of the Pomona community and (2) why the development is detrimental to the well-being of the farm. It was the first time I had ever been to something like that and found myself pretty fascinated by some of the protocol.
Personally, I am working through some big decisions in my life and this week(end) I made the decision to pursue a Masters of Science in Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona. I was debating betweeen that and being an Ayurvedic Practioner. Both paths were compelling but at the end of the day I went with my heart and with what I think will be the best decision in the long run.
And lastly, this week on the farm we ‘rotated’. I have been on Nursery team and Field team (my personal favorite) and now I am on chicken duty. At first I felt a lot of apprehension, mostly because I was just getting my groove going in the fields, but also because I haven’t spent a lot of time with chickens and I don’t really understand them all that well. I am looking forward to spending more time with them, with feeding them and observing them, and I am excited to get back to the farm and the onry birds.
I must admit that I am really naive to a lot of things. I might have a bad case of ‘Out of sight out of mind’ syndrome, and to make matters worse, Im not alone in my thinking. I’ve always been a recycler, but never thought much about the process. I was a consumer (and still am) and then after consumption I just put the leftover unwanted parts in its appropriate bin and wait for someone else to come take it away. They could be taking it to the planet Mars as far as I was concerned. Come to find out, they aren’t shipping our trash to Mars, but China!
According to a US News article from April 2016, China and Ghana are the two largest destinations of US electronic trash. Imagine a world filled with IPhone 4’s, ‘un-intelligent’ tv’s and maybe a pager or two. This world exists, but it’s not exactly legal. It’s not technically trade between nations but more like trade between businesses, since both China and Ghana signed a treaty (Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal) agreeing to ban hazardous waste imports. According to the news artilcle, “scrap dealers, repairman and second-hand salesman constitite ‘informal cottage industries’ by showing up at docks to buy the electronic waste and risk exposure to toxic material in the hope of making extra cash by recycling.”
Recyling electronics isn’t as profitable as it used to be, because many companies are saving costs by using less minerals like gold and copper in their electronics. It’s becoming more expensive then for recycling companies to make a profit recycling, and many businesses get around that by shipping recycleables overseas. In 2014 the UN reported that in fact only 16% of all the worlds electronic waste was recycled by government agencies or sanctioned businesses.
The problem is that (1) consumers want the latest and greatest devices, (2) phones seem to just break too easily and (3) the general public just doesn’t think about the impact that all of these electronics has on the environment – myself included (until now that is). I grew up with the ideas that as long as you put it in the appropriate bin then its all good…but its not ‘all good”. According to the EPA, in 2013 the average U.S. household owned 28 consumer electronics and generated 3.14 million tons of electronic waste.
In 2016 China, apparently fed- up from being the worlds dump site, issued a ‘Green Fence’ policy in which they would reject shipments at ports if the recycles were too contaminated with unrecylcable materials. The problems was that a lot of the reclylables they were receiving (not just electronics) were too dirty to recycle and ended up in the Chinese landfills. The ‘Green Fence’ has actually helped maintain a higher standard when it comes to recycleable materials, and some US businesses are benefiting because of it.
All of this information is to say: it just doesn’t go away. Old, broken phones don’t dissapear. Cracked screens become someone else’s problem, and I don’t think any government has found a way to send our trash into outer space yet. We, as a world, have engineered amazing machines that can process trash and recylcleables, but the sheer quantity alone is alarming. I have come to realize that I can only be responsible for myself, which is both frightening and empowering. The farm has taught me to value and treasure food more than I ever thought I could. I am learning to be less greedy and slowly limiting my consumption, but these are hard habits to break. In a world where convenience is king and efficiency queen, it often feels like an uphill battle.
“Are plants intelligent? Do they have consciousness? Awareness?”
Back in January, when I first began this internship, if you would have asked me any of the previous question I would have looked at you with a sort of cockeyed stare. “Are plants intelligent? Of course not!” In my former way of thinking intelligence goes like this: people are intelligent, animals like dogs and cats have some intelligence depending on the species, and plants and intelligence don’t even belong in the same sentence. Sure plants grow and produce fruit and seeds and they definitely have a cycle, but all of that is just a part of their genetic expression. They don’t have any say in how that expression manifests. Boy was I wrong.
Plants have feelings!!! No, no, no, I’m not saying they cry or anything (but honestly I’m not saying they don’t) Plants sense their surrounding environment they way any living being does. For example on the farm, many of the winter greens have began to bolt in anticipation of the warmer weather to come. Each season they have different expressions, because each season they respond to the volume of rain, the amount of sunlight and the temperatures in the air. They are supremely intelligent, and I would argue much more intelligent than the domesticated animals that live at my house. In my time at the farm I have seen how all life, animals and plants, are both supremely intelligent and aware. My idea of this world is shifting as I start to see intelligence filling everything around me.
This Wednesday we discussed having purpose when designing our garden and/or farm. This makes sense, because you won’t know how/when/what to plant if you don’t have a plan and some needed intention behind it all.
Rishi said something I thought was amusing. He gave us a little exercise to do in which we were to imagine what would be our intention for our gardens.
“If you have a space, think of what you would want in that space. And I guess if you don’t currently have a space for farming or gardening, then you can create a magical garden in your minds”
– I loved that-
Every thing is created from some intention, and who is to say that my (or anyone’s) magical garden can’t one day be a real thing. So I’m going to imagine pretty hard. (And maybe you should too!)
For starters this garden is filled with fruit trees- avocados, mangos, papaya, apricots and my personal favorite figs. Its a meditative and healing garden with greens growing in spirals rather than rows. It’s a garden that is so attractive to birds that some would even call it a bird sanctuary because of all of the tropical birds that perch in the trees. Since water is healing and therapeutic, I would also have a small pond that gets shaded every summer by the tall trees that surround it.
The best thing about this garden is that you are ALL welcome to it…but I might need an investor first!
As the weather is changing, we are starting to introduce new veggies to the beds. Many of our greens are beginning to bolt, a process they go through in order to flower and drop their seed. Now that I am on the ‘fields team’ I feel a great responsibility for the upkeep of the beds and for a successful integration of the Summer crops.
Part of the process begins with clearing the beds, and this week we cleared the Mibuna and some of the remaining Yukina Savoy. Both had bolted and developed these fibrous stalks that are quite inedible. However, some of the stems of the stalks are soft and can snap off the top quite easily. To my surprise, these stalks can actually be harvested and used in stir fry’s! I am continuously amazed by the practical and resourceful ideas I am learning on the farm. Before I began interning at the farm, I thought that the bolting process meant that I had somehow done something wrong (negligence!!) but now I see how bolting is just a part of the plant life-cycle!
More learning to come this week!!
What is a weed?
Back when I was a little girl, a weed was anything that my grandma didn’t want growing in her lawn- and I got $5/hr to remove them!
These days, my definition of a weed is, well, shrinking. What were formally, most certainly weeds, I have come to discover are in fact, quite edible. In fact a weed is really just a plant that is undesirable in a certain situation. mint, for example, is super invasive, but if you go to Whole Foods you’ll find it selling for $5 a bunch! Weeds aren’t the problem, but its what we do with them that makes them a problem or not. When I was in the Seattle area, I noticed there were wild blackberry bushes growing everywhere! I thought, ‘how amazing! These people have access to wild blackberries throughout the entire season!’ Come to find out that these wild blackberry bushes grow quite quickly and some even find them to be rather invasive. In a way, they are also a type of weed, uninvited and very presumptuous (for a plant).
So as a reminder to myself, and as a favor to anyone who is in fact still reading these words, I have decided to list a few of the California native ‘weeds’ that are edible. Forget salad bars, lets start foraging!
This is mallow. Mallow is EVERYWHERE right now, including the farm. Mallow can be used as a mild laxative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory that helps clear mucus from the body. You can eat the leaves and the stems. IT has beneficial polysaccharide and antioxidant compounds that include phenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, tocopherols and ALA fatty acids. So if you are suffered get from gut issues or want to help control your inflammation, this might not be a bad (and free) option to try!
Lambsquarter is a mineral rich ‘weed’. Even the dust on the leaves is full of mineral salts from the soil. About one cup of its greens contain 73% of your daily Vitamin A and 96% of your daily vitamin C. It contains B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. This plant is best eaten when the leaves are young, and you can thrown them in a salad just like you would spinach.
Ah Stinging nettle…friend or foe I still don’t know. However, it is an edible plan and is often used to make medicinal tea. It’s an antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiulcer, astringent and analgesic. Today it is mainly used to treat urinary problems, allergies and joint pain. You can make a tea from the leaves, or sautéed them. Some people make tinctures out of them or even create tablets or capsules to sell.
These are only a few here that I have seen the most throughout the farm.
Life is a roller coaster. Not only is it a roller coaster, but its a roller coaster that you have never been on. Its a roller coaster that is seemingly always under construction and whose sealtbelts come unfastened during the upside down loop. Life is messy. As much as life can get in the way of MY life, I have the upmost respect and awe of it, because life has perfected survival. Life has figured out how to continue to exist, how to bend with the constant evolutions that take place on this planet. Life has survived because life continues to evolve, to change and to adjust. It’s not stubborn and its not fixed on one thing.
One of the greatest things that working on the farm has taught me is to have an open mind. To take in everything and then to decide for myself what I think to be right or best. This week Rishi challenged the way we look at the Natural world vs the Unnatural world. By the end of the discussion he concluded, and we all agreed, that everything that is in this world is natural, because it comes from the world. Even the craziest chemical concoctions are still chemicals that are found on the planet. Concrete has the same effect as the exploding and cooling magma from a volcano. It was good to begin to see the earth this way, to see that there is no separation between natural/unnatural or between other/us or myself.
So wherever you find yourself on the ride, just remember to tap into the evolutionary part of your DNA that is prompting you to adapt. Its reminding you to bend and not be so rigid. Even our enemies are more like us than we think just like the unnatural is the natural, just misunderstood.
Quite the header, I know. In fact, in this post I’m not going to really talk about politics per se, but rather, I think its through politics that we get a closer look at the complexity of humanity.
We all want to do what is best- no doubt. This is the struggle between right and wrong and left and right. There is no concrete, black and white answer to really anything! If there were, we wouldn’t be having these problems and we would all just be able to get along smoothly. The trouble is, however, that we are all seeing the world from so many diverse persepectives. We all carry a history with us and we all have dreams and fears that direct our decision making.
It’s funny. I have learned so much about harvesting, aphids (mind the comma, we don’t harvest aphids on the farm), building nursery beds and composting, but I always want to write about one thing and one thing only- our weekly ‘check-ins’. It’s a wonderful time, after harvesting for the CSA’s, that we all get to come together and reflect on something that has been going on, whether globally, nationally or personally. They usually all intersect at some point and influence each other as well. This past week our weekly check-in took a serious turn. With so much unrest in the air and on the television screen, one of the farmers noted that even small children seem to have an opinion on the political scope of our nation (thanks mom and dad). As we discussed how to communicate with children, I brought up the fact that I find it difficult to communicate everything I have been learning on the farm with those who are closest to me. I want to help them, and teach them how to live healthier lives, but they tend to flat out resist me!!! (Again the whole “I am right and you are wrong” disposition). What do you do when you know that people are bringing harm to themselves and to the environment? How do you create real change?
No but seriously, how??
Have you ever thought about this? Like, I mean real change, measurable change? There’s one thing to hold a sign, and that definitely makes a loud statement, but how do you create change in your own micro-cosm of a universe? This is something I wanna learn.
We bounced around a few ideas, and some had more passionate things to share, and we came to the conclusion that statistics and information rarely change behavior. In fact most statistics can be trumped by equally compelling statistics saying the exact opposite. So then what? What can we do? What can we do about the changing environment, about the misfortune of industrial raised livestock, about the GMO’s and the ever increasing landfills? Gosh it feels overwhelming sometimes.
Forgive me for sounding so cliche, but do you remember that quote by Ghandi? You know: “Be the change you want to see in the world”? Well I hate to burst your bubble, but he didn’t actually say that (according to the infallible internet). Here’s the real quote:
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”
(I think I like the real quote better!)
It MUST start with us. We MUST look within and be honest with ourselves. Are we the active participants of the values we hold? Or are we just pretending?
Honestly for me, I pretend a lot. I mean I didn’t know a lot about the environment and farming before I got to the farm, but my ignorance is no excuse. I spend so much time focused on the egregious faults of my family and friends (how could they!!!!!) and yet I am often just as guilty.
I think that if we are to create real change it can’t start with us yelling at others, but it has to start with us looking within, and finally taking a real, honest look at who we are. Real authenticity creates real, lasting change.
(the most beautiful compost ‘greens’ I have ever seen)
I love food. And if you are anything like me you love food too! We can’t help it, its in our biology. We need it for survival!
When I was growing up I thought all vegetables came from a can. I didn’t know that cans were used to preserve ‘fresh’ veggies and i didn’t even know that they were frozen for preservation as well. In fact I didn’t even know what fresh vegetables looked like!! I had never seen one and I definitely had never tasted one. Instead each night my mom got out the can opener, pulled back the lid, and turned on the stove.
Then came college and I started to see how the rest of the world ate. It was like I was tasting so many flavors for the first time. It took time for me to adjust to these new tastes and to start to really appreciate them (and even enjoy them!). But even then I was still missing something, like I wasn’t fully receiving everything that these fruits and vegetables were meant to give me.
On the farm I keep hearing how important the quality of the soil is for growing food. If one day I somehow forget everything else from my experience on the farm, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that I will never forget this important fact. Food has the potential to heal our body, mind and souls, but through our nations industrial farming practices, we have lost so much of the healthy soil that creates healthy food. Instead we spend so much time focused on what the product looks like for the consumer (is it shiny, big and shapely?) that we, as a country, end up disposing around %50 of all food that is produced!
I took a picture of this ‘tripod’ carrot, because I thought it was truly beautiful. I love its rich orange color and its rebellious form. It carries with it vitamins and minerals that, when ingested, will lead to fuller, healthier life for the lucky person who gets to eat it. Perhaps like myself, they too will have a quick laugh at its quirky shape, and maybe in that moment they will be reminded how Nature reveals herself through many forms and that the idea of a ‘perfect’ form really isn’t that important after all.
“It’s all about your roots”
Ah…this week has been a beautiful week for me. Monday I hibernated at home due to the muddy conditions at the farm, which allowed for a ton of space for reflection and stillness. As the last few drops of the rainstorm sprinkled down, I nestled myself in a cozy corner of my house and began reading a new book about intuition. I was drawn to this particular book for several reasons, but the main being my inconsistency with hearing and/or following the wisdom that lives inside of me. I do feel like I have a strong intuition (women in general seem to be more aware of this ‘super-power’), yet I have noticed that I am very quick to dismiss it. The book, aptly titled ‘Intuitive Being’, goes on to explain how it becomes increasingly difficult to hear or trust your intuition when your root chakra is all out of whack. (At this point you might be thinking…”wait, how does this have anything to do with farming….just keep reading I’ll get there.”). Our root chakra is located at the base of our spine and when it is balanced we feel secure, more capable, smart, and in control of our life experiences. If the opposite is true we can feel in fight or flight mode or like we are always on the move. We actually began creating our roots the moment we were born up until the age of six or seven. When we were this age, our security came from having our needs met and from the relationships we had with those who cared for our safety and survival. These relationships have taught us, knowingly or unknowlingly, to trust or distrust the world and our own safety. However, in order to be in touch with our deeper intuition we must develop strong feelings of safety and protection, otherwise we will be stunted and unable to connect with deeper truth that lives inside of us- like the feeling when you know something but you just aren’t sure why.
Our human roots connect us to all of life. Damaged roots stunt you and me just like they stunt any vegetation that we grow on the farm.
Recently the farm has been under attack by some very devious vermin, namely gophers. Somehow they have gone undetected, maneuvering under radar of the feline farm brigade. Daikon is the food of choice for these rodents, munching on most, if not all, of their mild-flavored white roots. I was surprised to see how sad I was at the loss of so many beautiful daikon. What were once proud, shiny leaves, now looked wilted and formless, mere hanging leaves now burdened by the force of gravity on them. But how else is a daikon supposed to act when its lost its roots?
I know its sort of strange to compare a vegetables roots with my own, but for me this week, this made a lot of sense. Sometimes I try to build too high, when I am not even connected to the ground. Our roots are like our own flushing system that help us eliminate what we see and know through our intuition. Sometimes we don’t let go of the past and we end up taking with us our own stories or the stories of others. This damages our own roots and disconnects us from reality.
In some cases I could tell which daikon had become gopher food just by looking at the leaves that were beginning wilt. Without even looking at the root itself, it was obvious to see which leaves were suffering from a loss of available nutrition. Our roots are everything, whether we are a reddish or a human being.