Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Video from Eamon Heberlein ‘16

Hello, folks!
Eamon Heberlein here. I’m new to Yale and new to the YSFP. I grew up in rural Wisconsin surrounded by an agricultural community at the forefront of the organic and CSA movements. Ergo, I have a deep love for food, good land, all things cow-related, and the smells and sounds of the farm.
After graduating from Deep Springs College in June of 2012, I took a year off to escape academia and engage in agriculture from a different perspective. I spent two summers running cattle through California’s White Mountains at Deep Springs, and spent much of my interim period in Nepal and India.
In Nepal I taught computer skills to high school students in a remote Magar village in the mid-hills of the Himalayas. However, most of every day was spent outside the classroom as an assistant researcher interviewing farmers and working with them in their fields. Later I helped an organization train settling nomadic Chepang people in biodynamic agriculture in Nepal’s Terrai, and in India I interned on Vandana Shiva’s ”Navdanya” farm and seed bank.
Rather than try and synthesize these experiences, I put together some images from this past year; a sort of evocation of the simple everyday work and lives in these farms, villages and urban centers. The music consists of a friend, Moti, singing a traditional Magar work song, and then children from the Magar village singing the Nepali national anthem.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chasing cows—and sustainability

Shizue RocheAdachi ‘15 gives us the lowdown on her summer in Colorado.
Cowboy Gene Surveying the Pasture

The week before a deadline, I would spend my Saturday and Sunday at the kitchen table in my cabin, a cup of coffee inevitably gone tepid as a result of my neglect resting beside my elbow.  Eyes narrowed, I would stare at my laptop editing audio for hours on end.  The sounds of the sprinklers and bawling cattle were blocked out by my headphones and those days would pass as if in a vacuum; there was a sense of timelessness as day became night with little motion to suggest its passing.  I know it doesn’t sound appealing––I could’ve been swimming in the pond or working Billy, my horse, around in the corrals, or napping under the apricot trees––but that work at my kitchen table became just as important to me as my work out in the field.  

Slaughter in the Field

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.  I was working, you see, as a farm and ranch hand at the James Ranch in Durango, Colorado but I was also, simultaneously, producing a radio series for the Heritage Radio Network recording my experience in a sort-of radio journal.  Every other week I would listen through the hours of audio collected from the week and and thread together a story that might appeal to a greater audience. Suddenly my experience was no longer just mine own.  By contextualizing my summer work in a larger narrative, people across the country––friends, strangers, people in between––were sharing my mornings with me as I turned on the sprinklers or chased down a runaway calf.  Friends of mine who have never farmed listened to me pull weeds and call cattle and suddenly could understand why, perhaps, this world was so appealing to me, while farmer friends would call me up to say “hey, we’re having a drought too.  Glad to hear you caught that first monsoon out there––nothing like the sound of those first heavy drops.”

It is hard for me to describe my experience on the ranch this summer.  I can try in so many broad strokes and generalizations to talk about what it means to flame weed a potato field for three hours straight or electrocute yourself on the electric fence or have your shirt torn off your back as you ride through the thick brush; but, something always gets lost in those characterizations.  The spaciousness and the warmth of those long days, their steadying rhythm, seem obscured by all those words.  So I’m not going to try to explain it to you.  Instead, close your eyes and just listen. 

If you’d like to hear more about Shizue's summer spent out on the ranch, you can listen to the archived episodes of her radio show, Chasing Cows and Sustainability, at
Friday, November 16, 2012

Pizza and Events intern Onagh MacKenzie ‘15, who grew up on a sprawling rural livestock farm, on how she learned to appreciate the bite-sized Yale version:

Farming, to me, has always meant land. Lots of it. It has meant being able to turn 360 degrees and not see a man-made structure. Or hear anything other than the cows and their cud.

When my parents moved to Naples, New York over thirty years ago, they bought half an old dairy farm, the worn-in house, and its fifty acres. My brother has since used the entire farm, our fields and woods, along with the other original half, to establish his own sustainable meat farm. No more of my dad’s disorganized, motley crew of Scottish Highland cows. We have a “real” farm operation now, with ear tags and rotating pastures and three strands of fencing instead of one. (Sometimes I find myself missing the weekly call from the neighbors telling us our cows were in the road, or, sometimes, their garden.)

The main constraint on my brother’s operation hasn’t been lack of manpower or customers, but land. The 100 acres have long ceased to be enough. The cows and sheep now spill over onto neighboring land which we lease from its owners. To compensate for the distance in grass, we need to have sheep road moves between pastures. “Sheep in the Road” signs go up on either end of the journey, and in the middle it’s a sea of wooly bodies, swarming around the cars and invading the ditches. We’re reminded just how much we could use those extra acres of our own.

The idea that a farm could exist without acres of fields and with sidewalks, passing traffic, and a city skyline in the distance was a foreign concept to me. Urban farming seemed too much of an incongruity. Then I found my way to the Yale Farm. Instead of road sheep moves, we have perfectly aligned greenhouses and beds of veggies measured to take advantage of every last patch of earth. At 345 Edwards Street, lack of land is an inspiration: rather than focusing on what we don’t have, the small space encourages innovation.

But it’s more than just a space to be utilized: the Farm is a space to enjoy, a space to appreciate farming for more than just its fields and its time in nature. At the Yale Farm I have learned to love sustainable agriculture for its desire to spread good food and to appreciate where it comes from. The Farm is a space for the people, and the parts of friends that only come out when picking carrots. Space for the pause in my life that Friday afternoons provide, a time to breathe after the sprint of the week. And you know what? When I’m bent over in the garden bed, proudly checking out the dirt under my fingernails, or with my head stuck in the pizza oven, monitoring the cooking dough, I don’t even notice the skyline.