Farmer Noelle

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!

5 thoughts on “Farmer Noelle

  1. Welcome to organic agriculture!
    It is truly wonderful to read about your nascent involvement in the wide and fulfilling world of organic agriculture. I am an incoming MEM student and when I heard about Duke starting an organic garden, I was quite curious and excited. At my undergraduate college, I was the co-manager and intern at the college`s organic garden and I have such fond memories of the experience. I wish you all the best!

  2. Branding!
    I love how you have strategically picked classes, extracurricular activities and an internship to brand yourself as an emerging professional in the agricultural space. You will easily be able to target employers with this focus.

  3. Noel the farmer!
    You know much I love this post, your blog, and mostly your enthusiasm and effort! Go noel!

  4. Duke Campus Farm
    Noel! I enjoyed reading about where your interest came from and how your passions grew!
    I’m so glad you’re writing about your experiences as an intern! I look forward to reading more. I wish I could only be out there to help every once in a while and see it grow like it has!!! Yay farming and local food!!! 🙂

  5. Noelle!
    Keep growing.
    Check in and I’ll update you on our farm activities…

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