At the time of this post, I will be in my second semester at Antioch. Being enrolled as a student here right now has been an intriguing time because of all the major shifts in the works. There are new staff and faculty members with a vision for the college and several other avenues that are opening doors that have the potential to influence the direction the college is headed profoundly. As I learn more about the history and the goals shaping up now, it feels like a brand new chapter for the college. From my perspective, It could be a time of tremendous regeneration and possibly a whole new era for Antioch.
As an older student, I have different restraints and considerations that impact my scholastic endeavors compared to what most other students attending college do. One of those restraints is that, in terms of co-oping, it would generally take a lot more time and organization for me to do an out-of-town co-op because I have a family and life outside of my academic pursuits. However, in spite of all this, my second semester is, in fact, a co-op term, and I could not be more excited about it.
My professional background is predominantly in sustainability, horticulture, and to some degree, agricultural work. As oddly synchronous as it may seem to me, the campus farm is undergoing the beginning stages of what could be an significant transformation because of the generousity of an anonymous donor. The donor has outlined a unique plan of disseminating funds that are attached to specific goals and stipulations to be met by the farm. These goals have to do with productivity levels and volume, gathering research data, and academic development. With all these new demands on the farm and the changes taking place, it has been a genuine win-win situation for the college and me. I am grateful to be a part of the new vision for the farm.
The opportunities presenting themselves on the farm are things that I have wished for and longed to gain experience in for years now. Much of what I am doing so far on my co-op and what I am slated to do are things that will help round out my skill set and knowledge base. For a long time, I had dreamt of being an organic market gardener, but with all the changes that have recently taken place in my life, a part of me had given up the dream of them ever happening. So I feel blessed to get this type of hands-on practical experience from my co-op. It is a strange and surreal feeling for me to suddenly be able to do a ton of things that I tried so hard to make happen in the past after completely letting go of them. I guess that is how life works sometimes. When you finally let go and stop striving, life drops it in your lap.
Spring is a time for flowers and new life. This winter has been challenging, and with the lingering cold and gray days slowly disappearing, the sun and warmer temperatures are a more than welcomed relief. Moving across the country from a high desert climate into a lush and temperate zone has made me feel like a shriveled cactus swelled up like a balloon with water. Just the growth and abundance of biomass that I see weekly shooting up before my eyes is foreign and mind-blowing.
I love my new co-op morning routine. I am up and on the farm by 6:30 am. From 6:30 – 7, I walk my pup around the farm so he can get some good exercise in. As summer approaches, that window of time will decreasingly become less of early dawn with a sunrise, but right now, I get to walk around and take in the treeline of the glen as the sun comes up while I drink my matcha. By 7, I have the shed open and am doing the morning chicken duty. Fill up the water tubs, put out the feed, and let the birds loose. It took a while for the geese to warm up to me. At first, when I would let them out of their pen, they would squawk aggressively at me and march out with their wings spread entirely open. It was actually pretty intimidating. Now that they have gotten used to me, they don’t do that anymore, and to be honest, I miss it. I called it their morning liberation dance which was made up of equal parts fear of me and celebration of a new day. By the time I tried to capture their liberation dance in the morning on video, they had stopped doing it. However, I will embed a short clip of one of the geese bathing in a tiny tub for your viewing pleasure.
Once I have let the chicks out, I check in with Bruce(the farm manager) and get cracking on any projects that need to be done. Since the weather has been so poor, I have been giving the forest garden area some much-needed attention, especially on rainy mornings. As the weather cooperates, the other students and I will spend the bulk of our time in the row gardens tending to the veggies. I am looking forward to a few months from now when harvest time will be in full swing, and we will really get a feel for how much food is being produced. There are a bunch of exciting projects on the horizon as well. We will be setting up a new high tunnel greenhouse for extended winter production, expanding into growing a few acres of alfalfa for research purposes, doing heritage grain trials for sustainability and ecological resilience projects, a mushroom log workshop in the fall and we are working on incorporating a Permaculture Designers Certificate course that has hands-on integration with the farm. If you are on campus, be sure to come stop by and check out all the fun changes happening on the farm!