Farmers as Community

Writers, policy makers, chefs, and tv personalities love to strike the “food as community” gong, urging us, their audience, to gather around the table, to cook for each other, to know who grows our food, and to connect over a plate of whatever is freshest and most in season. After all, one of the tenants of small-scale (mostly organic) agriculture is Community – it’s the focused word in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), in which a farm’s wider network of customers pays in advance for months of just-harvested food, essentially propping up a farm’s financials at a time when the farmers need it the most (before any of the actual food is ready to harvest). A recent study by the University of Iowa found that so-called locavores eat local produce and meat because it makes them “feel a part of something greater than themselves – a community that shares their passion for a healthy lifestyle and sustainable environment.” The study called this exchange of money and food both “relational and ideological.”


There is No Finish Line

The summer garden is in its final days. This concept of finality intrinsically takes on a negative aura. And indeed, the final moments of something are frequently tinged with sadness. The end of a vacation, the end of a wonderful date, the end of a friendship.

But, a finale is also plush with empowering connotations too. The completion of an assignment, months in the making. The crossing of a marathon finish line, not one step further. The last sentence of a superbly satisfying book. When you look at an ending from this perspective, you might feel contentment nudging aside sadness.


Relatable Reality

What does a farming internship prepare you to do? According to Zenger Farm’s Bryan Allan, each year the non-profit farm strives to take three curious interns in the early spring, work closely with them for eight months, and then “graduate” the farmers in the late fall. Allan and Sara Cogan provide the interns with significantly more hand-holding in the first few months of the program than at any other time afterwards. When I checked in with this year’s three interns in late August, Brittany had just started her rotation as the farm’s crew leader, a role that means she’s in charge of the farm day’s schedule while giving directions to her fellow interns – and even Bryan and Sara. Brittany was handling her leadership responsibilities with maturity and grace, a direct result of the hours of experience that separate her from the more wide-eyed newbie intern she was in March.