×

Direction

Repetition.

In farming we learn by repeating a process. Over and over and over again. We pay attention, we try to improve, we do the best we can with the time we have but the reality is that we never really reach perfection. There is always a more productive way to prune the berries, an easier way to move the pigs, a cleaner method of bedding the chicks…

We are constantly learning and trying to change based on experience and observation. We are constantly trying to become better farmers. And that process doesn’t end. That is an exciting part of farm work for me.

There’s always more to know. From visions of future building projects, all the way down to the biology of fungi in the orchard, I think I have learned something new every day that I’ve been working here at Hickory Nut Gap. My last day of work is Friday. My fiance and I are moving back to Chapel Hill where she will begin grad school and I will find a job doing…something. Now that my stint on the farm is almost over, I feel it is a good time to look back to the beginning.

I began writing this blog with a post on direction. I’ve thought on that theme quite a bit during my time here and I can’t say that I’ve come to any definitive answers on the topic. I have begun to realize that life doesn’t run in a straight line. It’s more like— a pig in an unfenced pasture. He can’t always see what’s beyond the next hill, but he will move from one good and interesting thing to the next and be perfectly content with ambling slowly along, rooting at whatever comes his way.

So maybe life has a little more direction and focused action than that. But it’s the contentedness that I think is admirable. Hickory Nut Gap is moving purposefully into the future, but, as a farm, there will always be new projects that crop up, unforeseen and unasked for. Those are usually the most fun, though. Or at least they are the projects where we learn the most.

I think it works the same way on an individual level, for me, anyways. I know certain things about the future and other things I am still figuring out. I’ve learned to accept that and to have a little patience during the trial and error period. Life is a series of trials and errors (mostly errors it seems at times), but that is how we move forward. I know that farming or gardening or working the land will always be part of what I do. I know that I want to be a good steward of the earth, I want to eat good food, I want to be a part of community. The details—those are up in the air.

Best,

Sweetbread

Direction

I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, and, like so many of my classmates, I found myself weighted down by an indefinable dread at the thought of what was next. I wasn’t afraid applying for a job, or finding a place to live, or even beginning to pay my own bills. Those things were concrete. I knew that they would begin to fall into place as I moved forward. No, my real fear stemmed not from inexperience, but from indecision. For so many years my path had been clearly laid out in front of me and now, without regard for academic success or extracurricular participation, life stopped handing me my goals and said, “ok, now you decide”. It was like hiking on a narrow trail for miles with very few forks to choose from and then suddenly the path disappears in a thicket and anything further can only be accomplished by bush-whacking.

When my cousins Jamie and Amy Ager offered me a job helping out on the farm for the busy fall season, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I need direction, I was aching to get my hands dirty, to spend my days outdoors, and to acquire some skills beyond those peculiar academic qualities I’d nurtured for so long. I was a little concerned that moving back home and working on the family farm would be stifling. Unlike so many people who can’t wait to get out of their home town and away from their parents though, I feel blessed to live in a place like Fairview, surrounded by an interesting, loving, and exuberant family. This blog is my chance to give a little glimpse of what our conjunction of land, history, and family looks like—to me, at least. With all my talk of direction, this may seem like moving backwards and maybe it is. But it doesn’t feel that way. Someone told me once that history is not what just what happened, it’s who we are. In a sense, my writing here will be a journal of work on the farm, exploring the history of the land, and getting to know my family members as an adult; all things that I’m confident will help me to understand how I should move forward and where it is I want to go.  I hope that these entries are interesting not just for the stories that I will recount, but also for the learning process that is already taking place and which I will share as best I can, with you.