For the last two months, I have lived in an RV belonging to Ben Pfeffer, founder of Raisin’ Roots farm in Fort Collins, CO. I have worked about 250 hours at the farm, during which I have learned countless skills that will last me the rest of my life. When I first arrived, I felt frightened to enter a coop with eighty chickens. By the end, I fed them and move about them in comfort, picking them up with no hesitation. I now know the difference between annuals and perennials, between hoeing and feathering, between nightshades and brassicas.
What the folks do here is nothing short of incredible. With just over two acres of land, they have been able to harvest over 35,000 pounds of produce over the course of the season, last April until the end of October. They sell a great deal of that produce each week at the Farmer’s Market, they sell measured-out portions to at least six restaurants in town, and they sell 25 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares to members of the Fort Collins community who want both to help local organic farming efforts and enjoy those farms’ returns.
Throughout these two months, I have been offered as much of this produce as I desire. Never in my life have I eaten such fresh arugula, lettuce, turnips, beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes, collards, chard, kale, cucumber, and squash. Even as the chickens struggled with a mite infestation and thus laid less frequently than desired, Ben and Sam Jones (Ben’s second hand man) always offered the eggs to me, saying they’d rather I have them than make $6-$7 a dozen. Thus, nearly every morning, I have eaten two eggs of the yellowest yolks I’ve ever seen laid about fifty yards from where I sleep.
I now understand why organic produce is so important. I have tasted the difference. I feel I cannot go back to the cheap, pesticide-bearing produce I’ve purchased through my adult life. Organics are more expensive. Thus, I have focused on eating less. I have found I need less food than I have become accustomed to eating. Toward the end of my time here, I fasted for 40 hours, consuming only water and herbal tea. Through the hunger pains that arose, I felt liberating energy and realized that my hunger need not dictate my mood. I have gotten used to satisfying every urge to eat that arises. Sometimes cravings ought not be satisfied. Sometimes our body simply needs to process what’s already been put in it. Then, once digestion finds a moment to pause, it can use its energy to heal other wounded parts of ourselves, both physical and non.
No longer do I drink coffee every day as I have for many, many years. In fact, I’ve drank only about four or five cups since moving out here August 29th. I realize it makes me anxious. It makes me stressed. It distances me from my spirit. I do not need it. Then, on the rare occasion that I do indulge, it becomes a nice treat, rather than a dependency.
Above all, I am grateful to Ben and Sam for so willingly taking me in. I had no farming experience coming in. I’d been working in a classroom for three years, meaning the only time I used my hands was to type stuff and write things on a board. Still they brought me in and never used my lack of experience against me. Instead, they thoroughly explained every part of the process about which I inquired, patiently ensuring I was equipped to perform the necessary tasks. Continually they reached out to make sure I was doing well, physically, mentally, and spiritually. If they were having a bad day, they did all they could to keep it distinct from their interactions with me and the volunteers. They are two of the most mindful people I have met who have worked their butts off to bring a vision to be. That vision now exists in a physical form on W Vine St. in Fort Collins.
That’s one of the many things I have taken from this experience: building a vision takes time, focused effort, and extreme dedication. You have to show up each day, whether that vision is a business, a novel, or a relationship. We have to trust our visions, but we cannot expect them to come on a silver platter. Rather, we have to work every day to define what reachable, practical steps we need take to continue building that reality. We are capable of so much more than we know.
Much on the horizon! Too early to report on what it will be! Regardless, I’m stoked to be staying in Fort Collins and moving ever deeper into this amazing community.