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Summer 2020: Farming through a Pandemic

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

Allow me to set the scene - It's February 2020 and I had just officially returned home from the Peace Corps. The world was just learning about the scale and potential impact of the Corona Virus. I was jobless in a world on the cusp of a pandemic. I panicked and got a job for the summer as an assistant leader with Outward Bound in Maine. It was a dream position!

Needing an excuse to get out of Arizona, I looked into WWOOFing; a program many friends had participated in. One good email, one great phone call and three days later I am getting picked up at the airport by John and Eileen, the owners of Junction Garden in Vassalboro, ME. To this day I cannot tell you where this town is located but honestly, I have never seen, let alone experienced living in such a place as Vassalboro.

It was quaint, slow and friendly. It was old school New England and John, Eileen, Samara and Gary comprised a unique bunch to say the least. John and Eileen are a married couple from Buffalo, NY who absolutely love the outdoors and staying active. So much so that when their kids found themselves in Maine and hens in their yard in Buffalo, they decided to become full time farmers. John is a retired high school art teacher who loves and enjoys the animals as well as the work necessary to keep the operation running well and the buildings standing. Eileen is a successful independent consultant and gardener. Samara is the farm manager and successful business owner from Boston with thorough knowledge about farming.

What was meant to be six weeks turned into two and a half months of farming at Junction Garden. It was a wonderful; engaging, difficult, familial, joyous and quaint. I had some hard days but I also felt a wonderful and unique connection with each individual in that house. As well as the home's four legged member, Gary.

Near the end of my initial 6 week commitment, I received a call letting me know that the Outward Bound program was canceled for the year do to the now global pandemic. Upset and confused I didn't know what I was going to do. WWOOFing was only something I did because I had time to kill between real jobs. Now I am stuck in Maine without a place to go or idea of how to earn money in a deteriorating economy. So, I kept farming but around the two month mark, I was coming up on a milestone with the farm and, honestly, needed a change of pace.

I accepted a spot on a farm in Eugene, Oregon. Clear across the country for a few reasons; namely, one of my best friends lives there and it had been far too long. Otherwise, I just wanted to be back on the west coast.. or Vermont.. but fate landed me in Oregon. So for a week or so I was committed to that farm until I got a call from a woman in upstate New York inviting me to their apothecary and organic farm. I would renounce Oregon and pursue what I believed was a potentially amazing business gain. I would come to learn that famous product photographer Matthew Benson and his partner Jill were the owners of the farm and associated apothecary. A very cool couple; each grew into adults abroad and enjoyed wild adventures among the elite. I was enthralled by them; in a sense, they were my ideal of what it means to be a couple. They were beyond comfortable with one another - not in a creepy or overt way.. just naturally. It was beautiful.

I lasted a week.

Then begged for my position back on the farm in Oregon. At 3 a.m. the following morning, I got in a car and was off to Oregon. I would eventually arrive to Good Earth, a self proclaimed vegan farm whose beauty, scale and proximity to water made it the ultimate summer oasis. The land, the crew, the vibes, the food, the animals.. this farm was, in some respects, a total dream. I could not imagine spending my time better during a pandemic; I could not have asked for a more amazing group of strangers to enjoy that time with. For as much drama as there was on that farm, I had such an amazing time- there was as much chaos as there was healing. In a weird way, it was exactly what I needed.

From June to August I worked hard and played hard on that farm. I worked off-hours with a guy named Bill helping to restore his fence, I slept in a tent and carried 100s of pounds of vegetables a day. I sowed seeds, fixed water lines, built a giant chicken coop, used power tools, hayed fields and ate a raw vegan diet.

It was nuts, and by the time August had rolled around I was over it. I worked one last Saturday market and then I was out. My time as a WWOOFer came to it's natural conclusion. So what did I gain from all that..?

Well, I learned a LOT of skills. I learned how to actually nurture plants for sustenance; I had never even kept a house plant alive before. I got to care for farm animals and appreciate their quirks. I kicked it with some really great people of all ages and from so many different walks of life! I heard an incredible amount of stories. I had the opportunity to play in the dirt and appreciate our earth in a whole new way. I walked with Eileen and Gary every day, cumulating in hundreds of miles and a great relationship. I encountered so many acts of generosity and community with every change of scenery and am still inspired by those moments.

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