Commentary: from plow to plate: finding myself on the farm.

Author:Gross, Alexandra
Position:COMMENTARY
 
FREE EXCERPT

The summer before senior year in college is anxiety ridden. Questions like "What am I doing with my life?," or the more common, less dramatic, "Where can I get an internship?" cloud a student's head as thoughts of the real world take over. I was fortunate to find an unlikely job that I loved: Working at an organic farm.

Ta-da moment

After an internship with a vegetarian and environmental magazine in California fell through, my prospects looked like I'd be returning to my small town, jobless. I was forced to reevaluate what was important to me and what I wanted to pursue. I saw work as something that was meant to be thought-provoking, productive, that would allow me to make some sort of money, and, most important, an activity that would give me a chance to enjoy my summer before my last year as an undergrad. Last but not least, as a vegan for nearly four years, I wanted to be around people who enjoyed eating and preparing good food and could participate in the environmental, political and ethical discussions I relished.

There's not much in my hometown of Roxbury, Connecticut: a post office, a market, a gas station, a small restaurant, municipal buildings, a town park and thousands of acres of land preserves. It has a mix of people from the working class to affluent lawyers, actors, authors and professionals to city dwellers or "weekenders" seeking refuge in the rolling hills of Litchfield County. It's a place often described as "quaint." While I love my town and all of its natural beauty, it didn't have much of a job market. Or even traffic lights. As I scrambled to find employment during the last few weeks of my junior year, I realized I had overlooked one of Roxbury's thriving occupations, though diminishing elsewhere: farming. One such farm, Riverbank Farm, is a 55-acre property, owned by Laura McKinney and David Blyn, that prides itself on organic fruits, vegetables and prepared foods to sell to numerous farmers' markets and local health food stores. After a brief but encouraging phone call with Laura, I found myself on the farm in the middle of May, unprepared for how much this experience would both reaffirm and reshape my beliefs in the local food movement and how unaware Americans are of what they eat and how they define about progress and efficiency.

The organic stigma

Friday, May 16. 7:30 a.m. My first day on the farm. It was pouring rain, and I was dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, jeans and old hiking boots. After having only met...

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