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Sustainable Farming and Simple Living: Ella Arnold ’18 at Heartbeat Learning Gardens

“I want to spend the summer outdoors.” -Me, to Cooperative Education faculty Beth Bridgeman, circa June 2017. I got my wish.

For my final co-op at Antioch College, I am working as an intern/trainee at Heartbeat Learning Gardens, just outside of Yellow Springs, Ohio. I am a participant in their farm training program, and I also live on the Heartbeat property.

Heartbeat is a non-profit, small scale, sustainable farm working to provide education about sustainable farming and simple living through workshops as well as through the training program of which I am a part, as well as provide vegetables to the Miami Valley community through a seasonal CSA program.

My day to day work is primarily that of a farm hand. Generally, I assist in the processes of preparing and planting beds, weeding, watering, and thinning crops, harvesting food, and clearing land, among other tasks. I also occasionally care for the chickens that are kept on the property. Filling this role, I help to ensure that the gardens are maintained, and that the crops are harvested for community CSA members to pick up twice per week.

My aim for this cooperative learning experience was to experiment in a new workplace and lifestyle. Rather than working at a desk as I have in the past, I am working a different kind of “nine to five” job – one where my limbs, rather than my mind, are tired at the end of the day. I am living in a trailer without plumbing, and eating vegetables that I helped grow and/or harvest. I am learning about my physical abilities – that my body is strong and capable of turning over the earth and healing from the scratches and bites and bruises it inflicts upon me.

This experience also marks a transition in my educational life. I recently made the decision to change my course of study, and with that change I wanted to consider new and different ways of doing other things in my life. I’ve learned so far that farming is hard and tiring, and that I will probably not be a farmer. That being said, exploring new fields of work and new ways of living is a great joy, and has been a formative part of my Antioch experience.

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Ella Arnold is a fourth year Horace Mann Fellow at Antioch College. She is pursuing a Bachelor's of Arts in Visual Arts.

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