By Alissa of Wild Ridge Farm
I am a farmer because of the way it makes me feel at the end of the day. The physical exhaustion that my muscles carry into sleep, the weary contentment of finished labor lulling my brain to stillness. Some days I farm solely for the satisfaction that weeding can bring. I farm because I’ve never been very good at sitting still and because I’ve always been a morning person. I farm because I love feeding people, I delight in seeing the joy that can result from something as simple as a head of butter lettuce.
If you had told me 10 years ago that by the time I was 30 I would want to live on a farm in the middle of relative nowhere and spend nearly all of my time covered in dirt doing manual labor and growing vegetables, including something called celeriac, I would not have believed you. And I would guess that most folks who knew me when I was in my early 20’s wouldn’t have either. But in a way I have been transformed – I farm because I can’t imagine doing anything else.
I am a farmer because ever since the early days of my first internship on a small-scale vegetable operation, the act of growing food has resonated with me in a way that nothing else ever has. On the second week of that internship, I was hoeing rows and rows of peas in the May sunshine and after a couple of hours I thought, “I cannot believe how much I love this, I wish this was my real life.” Momentarily forgetting that two weeks prior I had quit my job, broken my lease, packed everything I owned into my ’91 Toyota Camry and driven from Duluth, MN to Falls Village, CT to work on a CSA vegetable farm.
I now know that two weeks on a farm is not nearly long enough to decide whether you should spend the rest of your days as a farmer. But over the course of that season I continued to feel like my place in the world was suddenly making sense. Like I’d discovered something I didn’t know I’d been looking for, something that clarified what I truly wanted for and from my life. I’d I guess you could say I found my calling.
Often people tell me how important this job of growing food is, or what a noble profession I have. I am very grateful for those sentiments, it’s easy to feel under-appreciated in this line of work. But the truth is that for me, farming is almost entirely a selfishly motivated act. I do take great pleasure in providing people with produce, but I am a farmer because most of the time it’s all I want to do.
Sure, there days when I wonder why, of all the things to do with one’s life, I chose to be a vegetable farmer. Days when I wonder why I can’t be content with a “normal” job like so many other people. But those days are rare, and they always pass. I think a lot of people go through life and never get to find out what it is that makes them truly, purely, completely happy. And even if they do, they may not have the opportunity to carry out that love. So each day, no matter how much work there is to get done or how frustrating that work becomes, I try to be grateful.
Now I, along with my co-farmers Anna and Joseph, have this new adventure which is Wild Ridge Farm and which has come with it’s own set of triumphs and challenges. We farm this particular land in part because of the support we get from the community we have found and created here, and the encouragement from all of those who love us. We undertake our adventure and our craft with reverence, and are honored to continue the culture of agriculture here in the state of Wisconsin.