I grew up on a farm. My dad taught me how to drive a tractor, milk cows, and feed the baby calves. My grandmother taught me how to garden and put up vegetables. I walked dusty dirt roads between barn and field and sang to the cows from the hay loft. It shaped me – made me understand the connection between the land and my food, made me love being outdoors. Like many before me, I moved away from the farm to pursue a different career, but the farming and gardening bug has never left me. What’s that saying, “you can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl”?
During the past 29 years, Keith and I have tried to grow some of our own food here in SW Florida – sometimes successfully and sometimes not so much. A few years ago we decided to look for a local, organic farm that would sell us produce. We had a genuine desire to get more of our food from a source closer to home (reducing the transportation and therefore energy consumption associated with our food) and to eat food that was healthier to both us and the planet (reducing exposure to long-lasting pesticides and fertilizers). And, in all honesty, we wanted to support local, small farmers instead of huge multinational corporate agribusinesses.
In 2008 we found Worden Farm by doing a Web search and were excited to find that they offered farm memberships to local residents. The CSA (community supported agriculture) memberships connect people directly with the farm – and their food. The first year we signed up, we chose the “box delivery” and from December through April we went to a designated pick-up point once a week to collect our box of locally produced, organic food. It was wonderful and bountiful, and we found we had more food than we could eat each week, so we shared our box with various friends and neighbors. We also attended a dairy goat and cheese-making workshop at the farm, one of the many farm events offered throughout the growing season. The second year, we shared a “box” membership with more friends, taking turns picking up the boxes and enjoying the food and cooking meals for each other. We were supporting the farm and our values, but we really weren’t making an effort to connect or meet other farm members.
This summer I found myself with some time on my hands, a need to feel useful, and a longing to re-attach myself to my farming roots. I contacted Eva Worden to offer myself as a volunteer to the farm. After we met and set up a couple of projects for me to assist with, Eva asked if I’d like to come back to plant seeds one day. I did and have been returning to the farm each week since then to assist in one way or another. I’ve learned much about the farm and am awestruck at the amount of work required to grow 35 acres of vegetables and flowers. But something more is happening, too.
These days on the farm are changing me. I’m more energized. I’m happier. I’m more content. When I’m there, I feel connected and “at home”. I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself, something worth giving my time to…and I’m seeing how farming – the way Chris and Eva Worden do it – can change the world. In every interaction Eva or Chris have with people on the farm – whether they be new volunteers, unexpected USDA visitors, or full-time employees, there is a sense of caring and kindness. In every conversation, in every action they demonstrate their desire to connect people to each other, to the farm, to their food in a way that has the most benefit to both people and the planet as a whole.
There’s a great peace of mind that comes from knowing where your food comes from, how it’s been treated, and that the growing of it has helped sustain rather than injure natural systems and processes. There is an even greater joy that comes with being a part of it.
Worden Farm is not just about growing a product and making a living. It’s about making the Earth a better place. It’s about community, relationships, sustainability, family, health, and happiness. By their example, they are helping me see how we can build a healthier, more sustainable world – one farm at a time.
More about Worden Farm and organic agriculture:
Cross-posted on the Words from Worden Farm blog on Sept. 17, 2010.