The Fields that We Know

By William Barden, Phase I Fellow


“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting evil in the fields we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

- Gandalf, the wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Return of the King”


Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about this quote. It’s one of my favorites from fantasy author Tolkien, but I’ve also been thinking about its applicability both metaphorically and literally here on the farm. As Phase I is winding down at the change of the seasons, we’re harvesting the last of the summer crops, putting the garden to bed for winter, working on our Capstones, and preparing for Phase II. With all of this, I can’t help but think of the future and what it will bring for myself, the rest of the Fellows, and next year’s Fellows - wherever they may be at the moment. It can be overwhelming to think of the future and the unpredictabilities it may bring. Sometimes, it can be quite daunting. It’s helpful for me to remind myself of this quote - that all I can do is take care of myself and my environment today so that tomorrow’s storm may be easier to weather.

I also find myself thinking about this in relation to the world outside of AMI right now. Turn on any TV or radio and you’ll hear about all the instability in the world, from the Middle East to our own country’s political processes. It can be easy to feel as if you have no control whatsoever and that the world is just going down in flames. It can feel even easier to retreat to a place like AMI and tune it all out. But no matter how isolated we are here, I feel as if our small part, growing relationships with the community over food and health, has a tremendous effect. No part is too small to be noble. Everything starts from the ground up, so might as well make sure we have good “clean earth” before we leave the community.

It’s a solemn feeling, letting go of our time here, but it’s also quite satisfying to know that we’ve been part of a wonderful system that will continue with fresh, new people and perspectives coming to the table to continue work that we ourselves have carried on from the cohorts before us.

From the garden itself, our Capstone projects, or our own personal growth and experiences here on the mountain, we’ve tried our best to “uproot evil in the fields that we know.” This year’s harvest will continue long past fall and it’s looking bountiful.



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