I miss farming. I say that even though I love my job working with farms and chefs to bring local food to diners at a small, wonderful Raleigh restaurant.
I had to step back from my agricultural adventures, not unlike I had to step back from graduate school, because I wasn’t sure what I loved about it. Love doesn’t need to be logical, but I wasn’t sure if I was passionate about farming out of a sense of Sehnsucht–an idealistic but unrealistic life-longing for something that will never quite measure up to your dreams–or whether I really did love it so much that nothing else would match up.
And I miss so much about it. The magic of the whole process of watching enormous plants fill in empty spaces from the tiniest of seeds and the connections between everything from water to bacteria in making growing a success.
But when I left graduate school, I wanted my work in farming to fill enormous holes in my heart and soul that were left by my divorce, and not all the beauty of every goldfinch in the world could do that. There were moments that came close–catching my first swarm of bees, the satisfying rolls of a freshly-tilled quarter acre and the accompanying bodily ache from using a walk-behind tractor–but they couldn’t heal me whole again.
I struggled with my divorce in part because I couldn’t fit it into a naturalistic narrative. Growing up on fairy tales and nature shows, I expected a predictable pattern and cycle for my life, not unlike the way zinnias sprout and bloom and seed and die or the good and kind are rewarded in the final act as payment for their long-suffering. But in the divorce I lost a partner and our family, though both of us were alive and relatively well. I lost a larger family, too, family that had become my own–parents, grandparents, sister–but there was no scar on the land from a tornado or earthquake, and no one else had witnessed the disaster.
Certain ecosystems need fire or flooding, some kind of destruction of previous cycles, in order to continue thriving. I figured my destruction had happened and I’d turn to farming to see what kinds of seeds sprouted in the aftermath.
If my porch is any indication, crowded as it is by plants I’ve begged and traded and surreptitiously snipped cuttings from around the neighborhood, I’m not tired of growing things. But aside from gardening in every spare inch of rented land I can, I’m playing the long game. I want my own urban farm, I’m sure of that. I gained a lot of the skills and knowledge I need in my two years of farming, and now I’m working on building the consistency and attention to detail farming requires.
I still have time this year to finish my book on farming (though I’d better get moving) and I hope that will be my jumping point to fundraising the money I need to start Marvel Farm in Raleigh, North Carolina. And I hope I’ll have an audience to read about it when that time comes.