By Audrey Carter, Phase I Fellow
If you’ve read the previous blog post, you know that we, the Phase I Fellows, spent a week together driving around Virginia visiting farms. We packed up as much food as we could fit in a cooler, squeezed a myriad of sleeping bags and tents, duffle bags and backpacks into two cars, and began our journey. It was a smelly week, to be sure, but it was also eye opening and inspiring. We were able to see various farming methods that we’d only read and heard about before. We slept on floors and in tents and worked together to find our destinations at the end of long dirt roads and in the middle of busy cities. Julia has outlined our agenda and I’m here to offer my personal experience. Here are a few of what I consider the brightest spots from AMI’s 2018 Farmathon:
ShireFolk Farm. We were able to camp at ShireFolk and spent the day touring the farm and discussing Permaculture. Our hosts were generous with their time and knowledge as we walked the land and learned. They had a variety of animals that we do not have at AMI and it was fascinating to see how different animals can work together to feed the land and eventually people, in a clean and peaceful way. This was a valuable farm visit because it allowed us all a peek inside into what a family-run farm might look like.
Same Food, New Place. As I mentioned, the majority of the food we ate on the trip was from the farm at AMI. Much of the food we ate was food that we had cultivated or baked or cooked or canned ourselves. While we had all discussed what food to pack and what meals we will eat where, I hadn’t given much thought to what that might look like on the actual trip. I was pleasantly surprised, from farm to farm and city to city, to find how comforting eating our own food was. We slept in new places and met new people; we saw new towns and ate new food. But the familiarity of the food we’ve been eating for the last four months brought back a sense of consistency and familiarity that I enjoyed.
Potluck. Visiting Tricycle Gardens in Richmond was a bright spot for many reasons. Meeting other young people with similar interests was encouraging, as was learning about the role food plays in race relations and how we can start to be advocates for change in our everyday lives. One evening while in Richmond, we joined the Tricycle Garden Fellows for a potluck and we were able to share food from each of our gardens. This was a special time that I think we all felt encouraged by. We were able to commune and share about our experiences in two very different settings.
This experience was one that expanded my outlook on the experience at AMI as a whole. Working and eating and living up here on Bear Mountain, is unlike anything I can imagine I’ll experience again. I don’t wake up in a house and go to work on a farm. I wake up on the farm. I don’t finish a day of work and drive home to eat dinner. I finish a day of work and walk up a hill where I eat dinner with my coworkers. If this isn’t immersive learning, I’m not sure what is. The road trip allowed me the perspective to see that, while we are all connected and more alike than we are different, what we are experiencing here in these six months is pretty darn special.