OUR FARM IS powered by humans. We use tractors and power equipment to mow, prepare fields and help with planting, but most of what happens on the farm is done with human muscle and human hands. If I was asked to name the prerequisites for farming success, I would say a good crew, productive land, a well-considered plan and a robust market—in that order. Lacking a committed, hard-working crew, the farm is like a chair missing a leg.
Over the past 26 years, we’ve had well over 200 young (and sometimes not-so-young) Americans live and work on the farm, usually for six to eight month stretches, with a few staying year-round. Mostly they come here because they want to roll up their sleeves and do productive work that leaves them feeling satisfied, if tired, at the end of the day. They want to use their bodies as well as their brains to mutual benefit. They want to get familiar with the sun, wind and rain, and the sounds, smells and forms of this physical earth. They want to be part of the movement to build a healthy and sustainable food system in America. Many of them hope to acquire land and become farmers in their own right.
This year’s crew is no exception. They come from as far afield as North Carolina, Louisiana, New Mexico. All of them are bright, educated and often surprisingly worldly-wise. Best of all, they’re motivated to get the job done. And one other thing: They help keep an old coot like me from going to seed. That’s a positive.
I asked the current crew to pen a few words on the farming life. Here’s what they had to say.