by Noelle Wyman -- June 8th, 2011
How I became a farmer and why I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Greetings from Durham North Carolina and welcome to this blog! While many of my classmates are spending the summer away, I’m staying close to the Nicholas School to intern at the Duke Campus Farm.
Yes, Duke has a farm! It’s the first year for the farm, the brainchild of a Duke undergraduate class project. I’m excited to have the opportunity to be involved and to provide the Duke community with organically grown fresh fruit and veggies.
More about the farm to come – if you’re impatient, check out the website – but some of you must be wondering: how does this self-professed urbanite start out as a Duke graduate student and end up working on a farm?
My story starts earlier in this past semester. I took a course taught by professor Charlotte Clark, coincidentally the same professor whose students initiated the Campus Farm. We were assigned to complete a semester-long project on a subject of our own choosing. I decided to explore a topic that was of relatively new interest to me: sustainable agriculture and local food.
I chose to research the relationship between local food culture and the Durham Farmers’ Market. I enjoyed the project immensely and learned a great deal, but the importance that project was as a catalyst: rather than researching local food at arms length, I decided to dive in head first and fully embrace the lifestyle.
Within the space of a month, sustainable food production was increasingly moving from marginal side interest to a way of life. I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and the book transformed the way I approach cooking, eating and growing food. I’ve met wonderful people, many of whom I now count as friends. I joined organizations such as Farmhand, and I even help sell produce for a nearby farm at the Durham Farmers’ Market.
I have learned more about growing food, nutrition, teamwork and community in three months than I thought was possible. Looking back on the choices I made that led to becoming a farmer, I can connect the dots. My grandfather grew up on a farm, and he, along with my grandmother and mother, are avid gardeners. I’ve always loved to watch cooking shows. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. The farmers’ market is my preferred Saturday morning outing. You get the idea.
When Barbara Kingsolver was at Duke this spring accepting an award for her dedication to environmental issues, she eloquently summed up my newfound passion for food. According to Barbara, everyone has a moment when they find some subject that ties the world together for them. For her, it was evolutionary biology. For me, it’s the local food movement.
Emily Sloss, Duke Campus Farm Manager and Trinity ’10, was one of the many individuals with whom I met for my farmers’ market project. I began volunteering on the farm in early spring, and leapt at the opportunity to spend a summer interning at the farm. What better way to learn about food than to grow it?
So that, in a nutshell, is how I became a farmer. I hope you will enjoy reading about my adventures on the farm and off. It’s going to be a wonderful summer and I look forward to sharing it!