You know that feeling you get when you spend time at a place and you really connect to that place but you know it’s time to leave that place? I got that feeling this year. I also got the feeling that I might be going back to that place at some point, and that made leaving much easier.
I went to Barr Farms in early 2013 to do a full-season apprenticeship with farmer Adam. It was hard—I mean really, really physically hard and kind of mentally hard, too—but amazing.
It made sense for me to return for a second year, that time with the idea to work primarily with the livestock and go to the Tuesday farmers market but make more time for writing. It was challenging, of course, but not really hard.
The farm was growing, and it made sense, again, for me to return for a third year–that was this past year. (This is a lot of commitment for a serial traveler—though I did manage to get in a good winter trip last year.) So this past year, I was the post-harvest manager, aka packing-shed maven. I got to exercise that odd thrill I get from organizing, making lists and charts, and developing systems. I got to do the farmers market again, too, and I was writing more than I had in a long time.
This last season was hard, but a different kind of hard than the first year. The growing season was weird, I was struggling in my living situation, I was trying to do too many things–regular farm work, writing, growing herbs for sale and feeding the farm horses–and the pull of having “my people” in Lexington, two-and-a-half-hours away, was wearing on me. I’d been making that farm-to-Lexington drive at least once a month for three years. One day over the summer, I just decided I needed to move closer to Lexington.
As it usually does, the universe went ahead and conspired to get me what I wanted. I’m on my way to Puerto Rico for the winter—literally, am writing this while sitting in the airport—and when I return from my working-winter away, I’ll be moving back to work on a farm near Lexington. That city has held space for me since 2002 when I first moved there for a job. I hated it then—the city, not the job. I left Lexington in 2004 but moved back in 2008 for a different job. This time, the city was just what I was looking for. I left in 2011 for long-term travel, then to live at Barr Farms. Now that I’m returning for a third time, I’m pretty sure Lexington is thinking, “I told you so.”
But Leaving the Farm
Back to leaving Barr Farms … this topic really sucks. It turns out, when you work at a place and live at a place, when your friends enjoy spending time at this place and you become friends with the people who are at this place, when you become pretty fond of a certain cat who lives at a place and when you watch a place grow and change and you grow and change within it, leaving is really hard. I’m not ruling out the idea of going back some day.
I struggled there, personally and professionally, but I always came away with the right answer. Sometimes that answer was that what I was doing was all wrong. Sometimes it was that I needed more of this little idea that I was being teased with. In the three years that I was there, though, I learned how to be a farmer, and that has set the course for pretty much everything I’ve done since my first month there. I also met people who’ve made a huge difference in my life through the course of the work I was able to do with food and farming.
My last day of work was about six weeks ago. I moved out of the “community house” almost a month ago. I’m still processing things, for sure. I have thousands of photos and possibly as many stories from the past three years. It’s quite a bit to think about. Some Puerto Rico hiking and beach time (ha, ha–jk–I’m working there, too) can help this along.
In the meantime, I’ll share some farm photos that make me smile. I only made it through three folders of photos before I realized I already had too many to post here …