When people ask me what I’ve done in 2015, my answers might sound less than adventurous to you (running and gardening), but the details in each of those “tasks” are greater, and more complicated, than those two words. To say that I’ve spent the weekend gardening could mean that I’ve weeded, planted, planned, shopped, mowed, harvested, mulched, amended, or seeded, all while dodging rain drops or happily soaking up sun. For some, “doing yardwork” is a drag, a drain, a sap on their time – the reason Roundup has become as ubiquitous on nursery and home improvement stores as the peonies on the neighboring shelf. I suppose it’s satisfying to zap those weeds away and hope that gardening is as simple as eradictating what we don’t want and cultivating what we do.
The chocolate chip cookies were melting in the surprisingly warm April sun. I stood with two precocious young boys, brothers Emmanuel and Habakkuk, watching the already cooked dough revert to its pre-baked form. Attention then shifted to the quinoa salad sitting beside the cookies and the platter of sandwiches next to that. The boys’ mother Tyreesha came over, wondering aloud if there were any vegan sandwiches while Emmanuel and Habakkuk elected to race each other down the sidewalk, turning around at a giant pile of bark mulch before racing back to a freshly planted persimmon tree. By then, a crowd had assembled around the table of food. This wasn’t a simple neighborhood picnic: everyone was justifiably hungry, having just spent the morning planting new fruit trees in an orchard called The Fruits of Diversity.
I met Zenger Farm's new interns on a cloudy Wednesday morning, a day when the cool air felt refreshing and hopeful, buffered by a warm breeze and punctuated by noises around the property: tilling of the planting fields, chattering children on a school trip, and construction on Zenger’s soon-to-open Grange. The farmers had already worked part of a morning, a combination of animal chores and seeding. In between our conversations, they, along with farmers Bryan Allan and Sara Cogan, alternated between tilling and spreading fertilizer. Though they had just begun their second week at Zenger, the three interns already seemed fairly at ease with the property and the ever-changing rhythms of the workday. Here are excerpts from our opening conversations.