Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Photo via. Farm intern Shizue Roche-Adachi ‘15 on horses, cattle, and finding yourself by figuring out what to do next:
I held the reigns tentatively as my weight settled into the saddle.  The horse was larger then I remembered horses being and I felt precarious as I sat perched upon his back, my legs splayed awkwardly.  Boot was restless and I could feel him fidget beneath me.  He stomped hard, frustrated, and my eyes went wide.  We had lied, saying I was comfortably proficient in horseback riding; my friend wanted me to see this desert of his and the cowboy seemed to trust me enough to fib a little to the others.  Truthfully, I hadn’t ridden a horse since elementary school, when a teenage girl had lead me around in circles at one of those roadside farm attractions you find in places that have little else to offer in the way of entertainment.  But here it was just open desert: no circles, no trails.  We set off, the three of us, my back arching uncomfortably with Boot’s stride.  My friend split away in search of a rogue cow who had found its way west and the cowboy and I continued on.  I could feel his eyes watching me as I tried my best to fake my commands.  By the time we came to the cattle, Boot’s patience with me was waning.  The cows freckled the mountain top, a scattering of brown bodies that stood like statues, their weight sinking into their hips as if they had been promised permanence.  “Alright, I guess I’ll take up here and you move down there.”  I looked at the cowboy and realized this was not time for faltering confidence—I didn’t understand exactly what I was “taking” but I watched him as he galloped west, wrapping around the cattle, pushing them towards me.  I gave Boot a hard kick and he started off with a jolt, nearly throwing me, doing my best to mimic the cowboy as I struggled to reign Boot in.  By the time my friend rejoined us, the cowboy had managed to edge the cattle north, beginning their reluctant migration towards the path that would eventually lead them down to the valley.  I, however, was in a battle with Boot.  He wasn’t listening, breaking into a gallop in the opposite direction I lead him in as if to mock me.  I pulled at the reigns, silently hoping he would forgive me for pulling so sharply at the bit, and yelled “woah”s, but he was stubborn, unamused.  My friend chuckled but offered little advice; there was work to be done and so I would have to figure it out  by myself.It took a good two hours before the cattle were rounded up, trailing single file down the mountain.  When the valley finally opened up, I caught my breath; it was the most majestic and unforgiving landscape I had ever encountered.  The sun was dipping low, now, and the light was colored in honey.  “Pretty great, isn’t it?!” my friend shouted from behind me.  Despite the vastness of the place there was an undeniable warmth to it. I can’t be sure what changed his mind but suddenly Boot seemed to hear me— suddenly, he trusted me.  We moved together; my body rose and fell in a steady rhythm as I cantered behind the mass of cattle.  Sweat dripped down Boot’s back and I gave him a reassuring pat.  He followed my lead as I yelled “hey, cow, cow” and chased the cattle towards the green oasis that was our goal, the cowboy’s trailer marking its boundary.  By the time we arrived at the trailer we could only make it out by silhouette, the moon casting shadows as we quietly dismounted.  I wore an almost embarrassingly wide smile, the kind that only comes with the sort of self-satisfaction you can’t quite describe in concrete accomplishments. When the cowboy finally came to lead Boot away to tie him up for the night, I gave up his lead rope reluctantly.   Sometimes, on Fridays at the Yale Farm, I find myself overwhelmed with the never-ending harvest list.  As pounds of salad greens make their way into the prophaus to be washed and bagged I start to finger the list’s pages tentatively.  But there is work to be done, no time for wavering morale, and so you walk forward with blind faith, hoping that somehow the carrots yield to the hands of unsure volunteers and the aphids ignore the Brussels sprouts.  There is something familiar in the feeling, in that trust.  I’ve worked on farms for many years, now, but I still only know what I’m doing 60% of the time.  I just have to trust that that other 40% will work itself out.  By the time the light is fading, the KoolBot is full with crates of produce and bags of greens.  Somehow it happens, every week, without fail. By the end of a Friday harvest, a grin spread across my face, the music turned up a bit too loudly not to be noticed by the occasional passersby, I find myself reluctant to leave, hoping that the light might linger.  I never thought I’d end up farming, and I definitely never thought I’d help drive a herd of cattle into a desert valley, but somehow I ended up doing both.  I’m never quite sure of my steps as I’m taking them, but I seem to have learned to trust myself at least enough for even Boot to believe.

Photo via. Farm intern Shizue Roche-Adachi ‘15 on horses, cattle, and finding yourself by figuring out what to do next:

I held the reigns tentatively as my weight settled into the saddle.  The horse was larger then I remembered horses being and I felt precarious as I sat perched upon his back, my legs splayed awkwardly.  Boot was restless and I could feel him fidget beneath me.  He stomped hard, frustrated, and my eyes went wide.  We had lied, saying I was comfortably proficient in horseback riding; my friend wanted me to see this desert of his and the cowboy seemed to trust me enough to fib a little to the others.  Truthfully, I hadn’t ridden a horse since elementary school, when a teenage girl had lead me around in circles at one of those roadside farm attractions you find in places that have little else to offer in the way of entertainment.  But here it was just open desert: no circles, no trails.  We set off, the three of us, my back arching uncomfortably with Boot’s stride.  My friend split away in search of a rogue cow who had found its way west and the cowboy and I continued on.  I could feel his eyes watching me as I tried my best to fake my commands.  

By the time we came to the cattle, Boot’s patience with me was waning.  The cows freckled the mountain top, a scattering of brown bodies that stood like statues, their weight sinking into their hips as if they had been promised permanence.  “Alright, I guess I’ll take up here and you move down there.”  I looked at the cowboy and realized this was not time for faltering confidence—I didn’t understand exactly what I was “taking” but I watched him as he galloped west, wrapping around the cattle, pushing them towards me.  I gave Boot a hard kick and he started off with a jolt, nearly throwing me, doing my best to mimic the cowboy as I struggled to reign Boot in.  

By the time my friend rejoined us, the cowboy had managed to edge the cattle north, beginning their reluctant migration towards the path that would eventually lead them down to the valley.  I, however, was in a battle with Boot.  He wasn’t listening, breaking into a gallop in the opposite direction I lead him in as if to mock me.  I pulled at the reigns, silently hoping he would forgive me for pulling so sharply at the bit, and yelled “woah”s, but he was stubborn, unamused.  My friend chuckled but offered little advice; there was work to be done and so I would have to figure it out  by myself.

It took a good two hours before the cattle were rounded up, trailing single file down the mountain.  When the valley finally opened up, I caught my breath; it was the most majestic and unforgiving landscape I had ever encountered.  The sun was dipping low, now, and the light was colored in honey.  “Pretty great, isn’t it?!” my friend shouted from behind me.  Despite the vastness of the place there was an undeniable warmth to it. 

I can’t be sure what changed his mind but suddenly Boot seemed to hear me— suddenly, he trusted me.  We moved together; my body rose and fell in a steady rhythm as I cantered behind the mass of cattle.  Sweat dripped down Boot’s back and I gave him a reassuring pat.  He followed my lead as I yelled “hey, cow, cow” and chased the cattle towards the green oasis that was our goal, the cowboy’s trailer marking its boundary.  

By the time we arrived at the trailer we could only make it out by silhouette, the moon casting shadows as we quietly dismounted.  I wore an almost embarrassingly wide smile, the kind that only comes with the sort of self-satisfaction you can’t quite describe in concrete accomplishments. When the cowboy finally came to lead Boot away to tie him up for the night, I gave up his lead rope reluctantly.   

Sometimes, on Fridays at the Yale Farm, I find myself overwhelmed with the never-ending harvest list.  As pounds of salad greens make their way into the prophaus to be washed and bagged I start to finger the list’s pages tentatively.  But there is work to be done, no time for wavering morale, and so you walk forward with blind faith, hoping that somehow the carrots yield to the hands of unsure volunteers and the aphids ignore the Brussels sprouts.  There is something familiar in the feeling, in that trust.  I’ve worked on farms for many years, now, but I still only know what I’m doing 60% of the time.  I just have to trust that that other 40% will work itself out.  

By the time the light is fading, the KoolBot is full with crates of produce and bags of greens.  Somehow it happens, every week, without fail. By the end of a Friday harvest, a grin spread across my face, the music turned up a bit too loudly not to be noticed by the occasional passersby, I find myself reluctant to leave, hoping that the light might linger.  

I never thought I’d end up farming, and I definitely never thought I’d help drive a herd of cattle into a desert valley, but somehow I ended up doing both.  I’m never quite sure of my steps as I’m taking them, but I seem to have learned to trust myself at least enough for even Boot to believe.

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.