The Value of Life, by Lauren Powell

I met the sunrise in the rolling rows of peaceful, dew-dusted vines on Flying Plow farm in the aptly named, Rising Sun, Maryland. Tanya turns to me; with great care and joy, she asks if I recall when we last excavated sweet potatoes from the soil together, almost exactly two years ago. “Yes, when we decided to live together! The decision came so naturally. It is hard to imagine what life would look like if we hadn’t decided to live together. And here we are now…” we reminisce as we reprise the harvesting of sweet potatoes that morning. I can’t help but feel that our fates are tied to this act.

As I dig my hands through the soil and unearth sweet potato after sweet potato, I feel my connection to the planet: the cycles of nutrients flowing from sun to plant to body, and the ancient act of collecting my sustenance from nature. Time and space are transcended. I feel connected to agrarian women all over the world; those who are digging up tubers in South America and those cultivating rice fields in Asia. I feel connected to my ancestors; those whose genes live on in my being today; generation after generation that have felt the soil and known what it is to pull sweet sustenance from the ground beneath us, wipe away the dirt, and hold life in our hands. It is as if I held a newborn, held the essence of existence in my hands, emerged from the earth as a human emerges from a woman’s body.

The most powerful image from that morning still radiates in my mind; it is the mother with her young child held to her chest, wrapped together by a fabric sling. They wander the organic farm together, stopping to taste the cherry tomatoes, touch the horse’s warm nose, smell the sweet zinnias, and listen to the chickens clucking. It stays with me, how much I want to be the woman in that moment: to share the simple beauty and pleasures of nature with a young child’s pure curiosity and delight. I think: this is how I want to raise a child. How do I make this a part of my life, my future?

Later that evening, I found myself doubting if I even want to bring a child into this sick world. Overwhelmed and frustrated, I could only think of the suffering that surrounds my life and loved ones, and my perceived incapacity to save any of us. This was confronting the reality of toxic chemical exposure and its relation to the rising levels of cancer and mental impairment. In addition to many other disturbing facts, I read in Jenkins’ What’s Gotten Into Us, that “In 2005, an examination of “the pollution in newborns” found some 287 industrial chemicals – including 180 that cause cancer, 217 that are toxic to the brain, and 208 that can cause birth defects or abnormal development – in umbilical cord blood taken from ten babies around the United States” (Jenkins, 36). Looking around the room, I felt suffocated. The rug, the drapes, the blinds, the couch, the pillow, the water, my own clothing! Toxic chemicals were seeping into me every moment of every day. How do I not feel it? Why does my body have an allergic reaction to completely natural and harmless pollen, yet I can’t really tell that there are flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, and a whole host of unwanted chemicals building up in my body every day, since before I was born? What if I have that baby? What if the toxins in my body cause a birth defect? What if my partner dies at an early age from cancer? What if I die at an early age from cancer? What suffering! What tragedy! What can I do? We will start our own closed-system organic farm in the Swiss countryside, and use as little plastic as possible. That will keep me safe.

But, in reality, there are “no safe places” (Jenkins, 41). Earth’s closed system circulates synthetic chemicals throughout the entire world, no matter how remote. Eating organic produce and maintaining an active lifestyle is not enough to protect myself. How easy it was, to marvel at the beauty of life and birth. How easy it was, for human destruction to shatter that image and throw me into confronting the reality of death and suffering due to chemical exposure. Where do I go from here? At this moment, I really feel that there is nothing I can do, aside from continuing to type on plastic keyboards in fire-retardant rooms while wearing synthetic fabrics and drinking my “filtered” water. Hopefully, more contemplative experiences of transcendence in nature, as well as the completion of What’s Gotten Into Us, will provide me with some sort of direction.


The Waste Iceberg, by Sam Lee

Food is a necessary resource for all human kind. Humanity can function without many thing, but we will parish if we cannot provide our enough food for ourselves. From working at the farm this week, I got to really experience how much waste there is. Those chickens eat better than a lot of humans. I was helping to harvest tomatoes, and it was sad seeing how many tomatoes were unusable for sale. For every tomato that was ripe and fit for sale, at least one other was either beginning to rote, or had some damage to it that caused us to have to through it into the pile for the chickens. And I’m going to be honest, I tried ate some of the tomatoes that were destined for the chickens, and they tasted delicious to me.

This issue is only the tip of the waste iceberg. Food waste is a major problem for many developed countries and the United States of America is one of the leading culprits. Food waste is defined as when edible food is disposed of at the retail and consumer levels and food loss is when edible food is disposed between harvesting and the retail store. It is estimated that approximately 40% of food grown in the US does not get consumed, but is instead goes directly to the landfill. This waste of food is especially shameful when you look at what goes into producing this food. Food requires copious amounts of water, energy, man-hours and land to produce. According to the National Resource Defense Counsel, in order to grow the food that we produce, we dedicate 80% of our water resources and 10% of our energy to it. Water resources and energy are extremely important, especially in areas where these resources are already limited. An example of this is California, which is currently in a severe drought and the agricultural industry has been reluctant to reduce water usage to the same extent as other industries and groups have done.

The land use is also an important factor to consider. As Adam Rome pointed out, there has been a significant reduction in our open space since the 1940s due to suburban sprawl. A lot of land that was formerly farmland has been converted to tract housing for the new middle class. In order to support our still increasing populations, we will either have to increase our crop yields through genetic modification, increased fertilizer usage, or conversion of other lands into farms. If we can eliminate a significant amount of the food waste and loss, there will be a smaller increase in food production required to feed future generation.

Another big issue associated with food waste is what happens to the food that goes to waste. Food waste is goes directly to landfills, where it degrades anaerobic due to limited air flow and the amount of waste that is deposited in the landfill. This is especially a problem because anaerobic degradation results in the production of methane instead of carbon dioxide. Methane is a much more harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methane is 25 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Landfills account for 18% of the methane that is released in the US. Methane is a significant factor in anthropogenic global warming, and reducing its production through the elimination of food waste will result in reduced greenhouse gas.

Overall, food waste is extremely important issue that we need to address. There have been a number of proposed initiatives to help reduce food waste in the US and in other industrialized countries. One of the major plans is to encourage the sale of food that is not as visually appealing. Food that does not meet its exact ideal is often not even harvested, but instead thrown out. This results in a loss for everyone, the farmer, the store and the consumer. A number of stores in both the US and Europe have launched initiatives to sell these foods at a discount, which allows for cheaper food to be sold to customers while still allowing the farmer and retailers to make a profit. Another proposed solution is to reduce waste at home. The sell by and use by dates that are on many products are not regulated by the government except in the case of infant formula. Everyone including myself is guilty of reading the sell by date, seeing that it is expired and throwing it out. This is a complete waste of resources, both for the environment, and for the consumer. Overall, these are just a few of many options on how to reduce the impact of food waste in order to protect the environment, the market and our food security.

On Sage and Weeds, by Meghan Jusczak

While at the farm on Friday, I found myself thinking a lot about my childhood. This is mostly because, while growing up in what could be known as Adam Rome’s greatest suburban nightmare, I pulled a lot of weeds.

I was never an indoor kid; my parents didn’t let me play video games, and we didn’t have cable until I was in middle school. We also lived in an area of Pennsylvania that was developing as I was growing up, so although I lived in a suburban neighborhood, I always was a street or two over from farmland, woods and creeks. (That’s changed since then, of course).

My friends, sisters and I spent a good amount of time roaming around those areas, but I also spent a lot of my days in our yard. I went through a phase where I was really interested in bugs, and during that time—as I dug through our mulch and observed the lawn with careful precision—my parents encouraged me to begin to do some basic yard work. I would water our tomatoes, trim some of the bushes, but mostly I pulled weeds.

Bizarrely, this was one of my favorite pastimes. I had very intense concentration when I was younger, and nothing satisfied me more than putting that to use. Focusing in on each weed, grasping it correctly to ensure I pulled it out fully, with the roots—it fulfilled some calculated part of me that itches to fix anything I can reach.

I still enjoy getting into that zone, and this was more than evident to me at the farm this week. For most of the hour and a half I was there, I (along with a bunch of other classmates) removed invasive grasses from some of Nancy’s plots. We didn’t talk too much—it was mid-afternoon, and still very hot—but I didn’t feel bored at all. My mind felt like a laser beam (how’s that for naturalistic imagery?) and I felt present in my actions for the first time that entire week. That return to the focus I used to possess when I was a kid, when distracting screens were few and far between, was relieving in a way that’s hard to talk about. I was able to revisit my short-lived love of bugs on the farm as well—as we pulled the grasses, a spider with a heaving white egg sac scuttled around us.

Halfway through my time at the farm, however, something began to bother me. It was small, but the sadness of it stuck with me for the rest of the day. When a group of us had begun work on one particular patch, Nancy told us what plants to preserve in the ground—the sweet potatoes on the vine, some lamb’s ear, and a clump of sage. The sage was hard to distinguish, considering it was toward the edge of the patch where the invasive grasses were highest, but Nancy was sure to lift up its soft leaves and display it to us. For a time after that, I kept the sage in my brain. When other people, especially people who had recently arrived, headed toward that area, I lifted the leaves and showed them, just as Nancy had done.

As we continued the mindless, quiet work, we reached a point where we remembered to check the clump of sage, but could no longer find it. When I went over to pull back the grass and reveal the clump, I realized it had been pulled already, by mistake. It looked like it was already drying and dying as it lay there. The strange thing about it was that we had any clue which of us had pulled it—it could have been any of us.

We did it mindlessly. We had thought about the sage, kept it in the front of our brains for a time, and then we just tossed it aside.

When I think about my attitude toward sustainability in general, there is something striking about this experience, and the way it encapsulates how I think and feel about environmentalism. I go through bouts of passion and education, my eyes on the issues and my individual contributions to them—but then I quickly turn to something else. Especially after reading The Bulldozer in the Countryside, I know a lot of things are environmentally “wrong” about my behaviors—I have an extra refrigerator in my room, for example—but it is hard for me to gather the will to change the way I live entirely, to keep that knowledge at the front of my thoughts.

I am relatively educated about environmental issues, but so often that knowledge is swept away by thoughts that seem more immediate and deserving of my attention. Like, yes, perhaps the concept my air conditioning unit is inherently flawed, but I need my air conditioning, and I will complain like no one else if I’m sweating too heavily indoors. I’m hopeful this class will help me unpack these obsessions of mine (namely my obsession with precise comfort) and allow me to redirect these feelings. No one would pull the sage if they knew what they were doing was wrong—but they could do it if they’re not looking.

Blissfully Aware, by Hannah Tate

Our country is blissfully ignorant when it comes to the food we eat, where it comes from, and how our many farms have been depleted. Each week, the vast majority of us go to grocery stores, buy food, and never stop to think, or ask, what is in it, where it comes from, and how does it affect me. Although difficult to admit, I realized that I contribute to the ignorance of the masses.

Growing up in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, you can pretty much drive in any direction and in 20 minutes you’ll hit a farm. But instead of rolling hills with large crops, you’ll find small farms divided by developments, houses, and strip malls. The drive out to Fair Weather Farm is not much different. As you slowly leave campus, drive past the last remnants of neighborhoods, and enter Maryland with open fields surrounding the road, you think you’ve entered a new world. That is, until you see the specks of houses, developments, and small businesses lining the road.

It’s exactly what William Whyte feared most for his beloved Chester County, directly bordering my home in Delaware County. Its what many like him began to fear the years following WWII, when suburbia overtook massive amounts of land. People banded together, voiced their concerns, and demanded change. Yes, there was change, but none that would threaten the materialistic culture that consumed Americans. The need to have new things to fill our new homes, in new stores located conveniently in new strip malls in our new neighborhoods, was too great. Suburbia was in, farming was out.

Despite being constantly surrounded by farms growing up, making it easy for me to shop food grown locally, it was much easier to instead pay attention to all the great things that suburbia grants me. The tiny strip of stores 5 minutes from my house, the second largest mall in America a mere 25-minute drive, and all the stores and towns in between. Why didn’t I question the food from the grocery store I ate daily? Why did I never pay more attention to the multiple farmers markets that came to town every week, where that produce was coming from, and what I could do to support it? Because it was easier to be ignorant.

I considered the person I am today to be well versed in the world of local, organic farming. Compared to my college peers, most would still say I am. I shop at the Newark Co-op, support their weekly farmers market, and buy all the organic products my measly food budget will allow.

As I flipped each page of The Bulldozer in the Countryside by Adam Rome, the information quickly told my “well versed self” to get lost. I realized I was blissfully ignorant, and more importantly, that it could no longer continue. How could all of this information been hiding from me in plain sight, and what else would it take for me to overcome my ignorance?

Standing on the farm last week, yanking grass out to expose the small patches of vegetable and herbs growing beneath, I focused intensely on the labor I was doing. I focused on the soil beneath my feat, teeming with spiders, snakes, and beetles. I focused on the sun glaring down, producing sweat on my face. I focused on the zip of cars passing by, unaware of the work being done here. I wanted to absorb everything, to fully appreciate what I was contributing to this tiny organic farm, and what it would contribute to the community.

This, I told myself, was becoming blissfully aware, and it felt exhilarating.

Flashback to Dirtier Days, by Chris Butrico

It was a scalding summer afternoon. I remember running around in my neighbor’s backyard along with our brothers, carrying out our daily activities of dodge ball and fort building. When we decided we needed some mode of cooling off, we took to spraying each other down with the hose in their backyard. At some point during our cool down we decided we liked the mud we were creating with the hose, and we wanted more of it. I can’t say for sure what sparked the idea in our seven-year-old minds, but next thing I remember (to the future dismay of my neighbor’s mother) we were digging ourselves a two and a half foot mud pit in the back corner of the yard. When all was said and done we were bating in mud up to our waists, blissfully covered from head to toe, for no conceivable reason. I’ll never forget the look on my Mom’s face when my brother and I knocked on the back door looking like the survivors of some horrendous mudslide.

In The Bulldozer in the Countryside, Adam Rome quotes a passage from Margo Tupper’s No Place to Play where she talks about her daughter’s distress upon finding out that, in order to build new houses, developers would be coming to clear her favorite place to play: the local woods. Reading this passage made me think back to my childhood, where activities such as the mud pit excavation were regular occurrences for me. I vividly remember building tree houses with my cousins, riding bikes through the woods with my friends, and taking every opportunity to be outside as a kid. Looking back on my early years, it’s hard to imagine what life would’ve been like without the experiences, lessons, and distractions that nature provided me.

When I arrived at Fair Weather Farm this week Nancy put me on hay duty, which entailed loading bales of hay from the fields onto a trailer and then stacking as many of those bales as possible in the barn. Some of the hay bales were a lot heavier than they looked, making lifting and stacking the hay pretty taxing on my hands and arms. With the humidity and the heat it seemed that the hay particles and dust were permanently stuck hanging in the air, leading to uncontrollable sneezing and an extremely unpleasant itch over my entire body. Additionally, the barn acted as a sort of green house that trapped the heat and dust, exacerbating my newfound allergy to hay. Throw in profuse sweating and a dozen treacherous pitfalls between the stacks of hay we were climbing on, and I’d say it started out as a pretty unpleasant job. Yet after a few minutes of working I somehow found myself enjoying the work I was doing.

While stacking and gathering the hay, I thought back to a childhood version of myself. One who wasn’t quite so bothered by heat and humidity, who spent far more hours outside getting dirty than he did sitting in front of a laptop in the air conditioning. I picture a younger me being told he can take all the bales of hay he wants from some field to stack in a huge 150-year-old barn to climb on. Seven-year-old me digs mud pits for fun; a looming, moldable mountain of hay would provide hours of entertainment for my friends and me. In that moment I can’t say for sure whether I truly started to see the hay through the eyes of a younger me, as an entertaining and beautiful structure at my disposal, or simply felt some nostalgic joy knowing that a younger me had that sort of spirit and imagination. Either way it made the work exponentially more enjoyable.

When I got back to my apartment I realized I was dirtier than I’ve been in a while. A level of dirty that a twenty year old me took pride in as the sign of a job well done and an excuse to skip the gym that day, but a younger me would’ve seen as just another day outside playing with friends in the dirt and grass under the sky. The work I did on the farm this week definitely helped me reconnect with my inner child, and showed me values of getting dirty that I haven’t seen in a while. It made me note the differences between what was fun as a kid and what is “fun” today. I gained a new perspective from looking at things through my childish eyes this week, and I plan on continuing to do so as I spend more time on the farm.

Rain, The Farm, and The Yukon, by Kate Norris

I knew that it was supposed to rain. I planned for it, dressing to get soaked, although somehow that planning didn’t extend to bringing a rain jacket. It was fine, it was warm out.

The farm was different this time. A hazy mist was settled around the hills in the distance, the sun was doing a decent job of hiding behind the clouds, and the sounds were different.

It was nice to be there early, I was alone in the patches for a good hour or two. I got to work weeding, just thinking or humming for entertainment when things were slow. Hands, legs, arms, and clothes all quickly bore the signs of being in the dirt. Very soon, it started to rain, as it had been threatening to for hours. Rain is wonderful.

Lessons that we take from things we can’t control, like the weather, are very strong in my experience. A brief background: I had the good fortune this summer to spend thirty days in Yukon Territory, Canada, backpacking and wilderness canoeing. I think my few hours on the farm that day were the first since that trip that I was out in the rain for any extended period of time. It was a much different experience at Fair Weather. I loved the trip I was on, but your mentality with weather changes is very different when you know you can’t just go inside to dry off at the end of the day. I knew part of the fun of the farm was because I had dry clothes and a house to go back to when I was finished. I didn’t have to worry that I was getting too cold, or my things were soaked. There were many lessons I took away from the trip, some of which I’m sure I haven’t even realized yet, but one was that “man is not the center of nature”; however much we might think we are (pg.165). And another is definitely an appreciation for how our surroundings, mentality, and situation affect our interaction with nature. In other words, whether we dance in a patch of vegetables, throw our hood up and pray for the rain to subside sometime before we’re drenched, or to look around and just laugh.

Paul Errington talked about nature and marshes, when quoted in Rome’s book, saying, “lessons and beauties of the skies, of the seas, of the mountains, and of the other places remaining where man can still reflect upon lessons and beauties that are not of human making” (pg.159). Now the farm isn’t exactly wild – it is something of our making – but it is a great deal closer to nature than we get in Newark. As such, I took the opportunity to enjoy the smell, the feel, and the effect of the rain on the land. It wasn’t a hindrance to the work; on the contrary, I had the most fun when it was raining. Each time a period of rain stopped, I wished it could have continued for just a bit longer. It was such a nice change from the heat of the previous few days.

It was interesting to realize what the rain meant on the trail versus on the farm – for plants and people. In both places, the rain is good for the plants. On the trail, the rain was fine, unless it continued for hours. Then it was just making our bodies and minds a little harder to warm up at the end of the day. For the farm, especially at the end of a particularly hot summer, it’s a welcome relief as watering tasks are fewer.

By the end of my time there, another student and Nancy were working with me on a specific plot of land. Both hiking and farming seem to cultivate sharing of personal experiences, hopes, and ideas. It’s one of the things I like most about both activities – that if you want, you can get to know people. We talked about classes, plants, how the farm is managed. Nancy’s advice that morning was that nothing is certain. Not the rain, so Nancy said she waters sparingly to make the plants roots grow stronger. And not the plans we make for after college, which I took to mean that we should think openly about what comes – a good mentality to have in town and in the backcountry.

Suffocated, by Gabrielle Priest

I hate crowds. I hate the feeling of being surrounded by a large number of people bumping into me, stepping on my toes, breathing their hot breathe in my face. It makes me feel tight in my chest, like I can’t breath. I hate when my roommates drag me to crowded bars, I cringe at the thought of being engulfed by the crowd at concerts, and going into DC for work? Forget about it. When I stepped onto Nancy’s Farm on Friday afternoon after a morning of bobbing and weaving through crowds of people, I felt relaxed. I could feel my chest just open up. As I uprooted weeds surrounding her onions, spinach and herbs I could feel just how much open space there was around me. It seemed to go on for miles. It was a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of groggy, rushing college kids. I realized just how important this recreation break is.

At home I work for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, a portion of DC government that confused me greatly coming from a more rural area of suburban Maryland. I live next door to a farm, though I never ventured out into it, I had a huge untouched backyard growing up, I had trouble picturing anything but congested streets and tall buildings in the heart of DC. What do these parks even look like? What do people even use these parks for? I found myself asking these questions as I sat at my desk and answered the phone. Why was the idea of Parks and Recreation so important to preserve in a city? While working on Nancy’s Farm, I found the answer to my questions. Wide-open spaces make people feel centered. It provides them with a sense of serenity only the beauty of nature can provide. I am not the only one whose chest feels heavy when surrounded by congestion. Everyone needs a chance to breath. It was then I realized exactly how important the idea of preservation of these wide-open spaces is.

In the late 60’s there was a push for open space. Conservationist, Environmentalists and even just concerned citizens banded together to protect any unspoiled land that the suburban sprawl had left untouched. The expansion of suburbia had claimed the lives of the majority of the wilderness surrounding the cities. It had no signs of stopping. It was quickly expanding to the surrounding lands with plans to expand even further than that. Not only was it taking away from much needed recreation and open space nature provide, it was also damaging our water supply and water management. Open space plays a big part in preventing soil erosion and flooding. Though this push began in the late 60’s, I still see the land grab and expansion happening around me without me even so much as batting an eye.

As the suburbs grew in population, so did the open spaces to provide more housing and transportation. The forest I lived next to my whole life I realized has been cut and molded into a ramp for a highway. The open field I lived across from that was the site of many play-dates and occasionally the county fair has been bulldozed over to create space for more developments. Where is my field? Where did my creek go? These were questions that didn’t even cross my mind as I watched pieces of my childhood fall victim to construction. Suddenly when thinking about my childhood home I feel a tightness in my chest, an d the worst part about it is I didn’t notice it until now.

Potatoes and Oysters, by Tim Lyons

Growing up in Rhode Island I would be lying if I said I wasn’t spoiled by the environment I was surrounded by. Living on a brackish pond with access to the ocean it was normal to take a boat out for a quick ride to Block Island or just to the beach for the day. At the age of 13 my parents made a decision to force me to get a job, only if it was for a few days a week I was obviously against the idea. Little did I know it was change my outlook on life for ever. A family friend offered me a job right on Ninigret Pond on the Ninigret Oyster Farm tending and helping to grow oysters from seed to market sized oysters. As I grew up I received more responsibilities on the farm eventually working full time as a farm manager. Within the last 8 summers I have been a part of something that most people don’t even know exists. I have seen animals ranging from tropical seahorses, a rare Atlantic Torpedo, juvenile fish and even a young sea turtle. All mostly following their food that is brought in with the tides. Beyond the animals I have seen some of the natural occurrences and tendencies that a farm can run into during the process of growing. Things like sets of mussels that suffocate the animals or tough icy winters that make getting to product involve a sledgehammer and thick wool lined waterproof gloves.

Stepping onto Fair Weather Farm I wasn’t sure what to expect but putting a pair of gloves on and working in the hot sun was nothing new for me. Seeing the farm was almost a sigh of relief for me. After listening to other people talking about how it felt to be on the farm and the sounds and sights that came with it, to some are probably intimidating but for me it is a bit of an escape. Being on an oyster farm your senses are overwhelmed by things the normal 20 something year old never has felt before. Turns chatter overhead fighting off other waterfowl that dare come near their nests. Minnows and eels beat in and out of cages and trays while feeding off sponge and avoiding larger predators. The smell of dried cages with razor sharp barnacles and dried weed waiting to get cleaned waft around distinctly through the air. There is an eerie but beautiful silenceness of 7 am on the water by yourself with no afternoon westerly wind or Connecticut boaters grinding over the unforeseen sandbars. The clarity that the mind feels when doing farm work on the water is identical to the familiar feeling I received when I pulled up to Fairhill.

Starting my day waking up before 6 am and running sprints then attending class all day then a lift, my life becomes overwhelmed with doing things to please others whether coaches, family or even pleasing myself. Being on the farm gives me an outlet to do mindless work that in the end has a large effect on other people. Professor Jenkins and I picked a large basket of potatoes, which honestly for me harvesting is, the least interesting part of farming. It really is the easiest part at least in all my experiences. The maturation process of the animals on the oyster farm is the hard part, giving all of the product the TLC it needs to grow to harvest size is where the help is truly needed. The knowledge of that gives me the feeling of my imminent return to the farm.

After reading Rowes book about Suburban Sprawl one specific topic really got my attention in which I can connect to in my time on farms, especially on the water, was his text on wetlands and estuaries. On page 160 Rowe references the early science of ecology and how estuaries were “one of the most fertile areas of the world”, with this I could not agree more. As an oyster farmer we run into a lot of trouble with seasonal homeowners having a problem with growing aquaculture farms on our specific estuary. With the homes so close to the coast they have a strong influence on the Rhode Island Coastal Resource Commission in the town that then affects the permits and regulations given. They complain about their aesthetic views and devaluation of their homes. These people are blind to the ecosystems that the farms yield and the “nutrient trap” that pond maintains. After talking about not knowing where our food comes from in class and the blind arrogance that our generation takes part of it is clear that these people are unaware where their exquisite high quality seafood comes from. When in reality it comes from the pristine waters they so closely overlook. With that being said my reflections give me a large sense of that arrogance in my life. It provides me another challenge that I can work towards that ultimately serves a bigger purpose in the world and honestly I think that’s what IT is truly about.

Driving Across the Plains, by Rodger Carter

Last month, two friends and I drove to Colorado where we did a four day backpacking trip in the Maroon Bells section of the White River National Forest. Driving through the states in the middle of the country(Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa), I couldn’t help but be amazed/ baffled by the extent to which corn and soybeans were the dominant crops.

Experiencing this sprawling monotonous form of agriculture brought up many interesting questions. I wondered what that land would have looked like five hundred years ago. How would that endless grassy plain have looked undisturbed? What vegetation grew there? What animals lived there? Were the herds of buffalo as magnificent as I have heard them described in books? Has that biome been completely replaced with large scale agriculture or are there still places where it can still be found? Hopefully someone had the foresight to set some aside. What a sight it would have been to see the great plains intact.

I also thought about what becomes of all the corn and soybeans from these farms. How much is actually used for food? Ignoring nutrient needs, I wonder how many people could get all their caloric requirements from the amount of corn and soybeans that are produced in those states? Should corn and soybean derivatives such as corn syrup be considered food or something else? In class, I didn’t really buy into there actually being a distinction between processed and unprocessed food, but over the past few days the idea has grown on me. I have found myself trying to minimize how processed my foods are.

I am familiar with the fact that that corn is feed corn and that it is not the corn that I am used to eating off of the cob, but how different are they actually? What does feed corn taste like? Is it edible? In defense of growing these crops in the middle of nowhere, they would store well and be easily transported, unlike other vegetables and fruits which would require more care. I could see the yields of calories produced per acre being extremely high.

While large scale monoculture may be efficient, I thought about whether it is sustainable in the long term or not. I heard that the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies much of the water for these farms is rapidly drying up. How long will it last? Does the public care? Do the farmers care and are they making any significant changes? Is it an issue of the tragedy of the commons? How inefficient are those big framed metal irrigation machines? Is drip irrigation feasible or it too much of a hassle? How about the effects of the monoculture on the soil? How quickly can a fresh, fertile field be depleted of nutrients in this system? Once the soil is bad, do they just throw tons of fertilizer on it? Are the farmers educated on how much fertilizer to use per acre or do they just assume that more is better regardless of the consequences for the world outside of their farm? Where the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico, I know that there are large dead zones. Are these the fault of our modern farmers or is something else to blame? What about their use of pesticides? Do insects eat feed corn and soybeans? How much pesticides do farmers use? What happens to the pesticides once they are applied? Do they stay in the soil? Do they dissolve in rain and runoff into bodies of water?

Who are the farmers that put the pesticides down? Do they own their land or do they just work the land for some large company? Do they make much money? How expensive is the machinery that they use? Are seeds expensive? What’s the deal with farm subsidies? What are the backgrounds of these farmers? Where did they grow up? Were their parents farmers too? Did they grow up in the same area where they now live? If so, from where did their ancestors immigrate? Are they from the east coast of the United States or from Europe? Were their farms once part of Homesteads? What happened to all of the Homesteads? Did they merge and merge until they became the sizes of today’s farms? Are the farmers happy? What do they think of their agriculture? Do they live near communities? Are they lonely?

In many ways, from what I have seen, Nancy farm is very different from these monoculture farms. Other than for the hay, she seems to be much less reliant on machinery, although, she cultivates food crops on a much smaller scale. However, she has much more variety than at the monoculture farms. Each small square had something different. She also was much more self-reliant. The hay feeds the horse which produces manure which is used on the crops. Food scraps are fed to the chickens which produce eggs. This is opposed to a monoculture farm, which would have to import fuel for the machines and, unless the farmers had a garden, food to feed the farmers. In the coming weeks I look forward to seeing more of how the farm is run. It seems like quite an undertaking to manage all of the components.

Farms and Climate Change, by Margaret Orr

Imagine a landscape of gently rolling hills surrounded by a forest of green trees. Garden plots are scattered all over the open area, bearing flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Just over one of the hills is a fenced-in area that is home to goats, chickens, a fish pond, and a beehive. You’ve just pictured Fair Weather Farm, an organic farm in Cecil County, Maryland. Fair Weather Farm produces fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, and honey, among other goods. America used to be full of farms like this one. For miles, food-producing fields would stretch under blue skies of clean air, until the end of World War II, when housing developments began to spread like wildfire. Suburban housing developments were important to the industrializing economy of the US, but they came at a steep cost to the environment. I will admit that I love my heated, air-conditioned home in the suburbs of Philadelphia – which, fittingly, used to be located on a farm – and I enjoy my TV and propane stove. What really gets under my skin is the apparent disregard for the environmental impacts of rapid housing development. Solar panels, for example, were brought forward as an alternative source of energy in the early 1950’s, however, newly-elected President Eisenhower advised against listening to “extremists” who suggested using solar panels as an energy source. Funding for solar panel research was limited, causing MIT researchers to give up on their solar cell efforts in 1962. Just imagine the good that could have come from solar cells being more important to President Eisenhower and others like him. We could be in the midst of a transition to solar energy right now, instead of continuing to burn harmful fossil fuels that propagate climate change. Another technology that arose from the housing boom was the septic tank. Septic tanks have been known to cause a number of environmental problems, including groundwater pollution and eutrophication. They were linked to such issues in the 1950’s, but use of them continued to increase despite this. You would think that, with time, builders, citizens, and the government would become more aware of the environmental consequences of turning uninhabited land into homes; however, this is not the case. Consider the story of an Idaho couple, Chantell and Mike Sackett. They were told by the EPA that they were prohibited from building a new home, due to the fact that they lacked the appropriate permit for building, as land they planned to develop on was a protected wetland. This caused an uproar amongst two Supreme Court Justices, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, who claimed that the EPA was “high-handed” in dealing with private property, and that “this kind of thing can’t happen in the United States”. Wetlands are vital ecosystems with impeccably high biodiversity. They provide the only habitats for many endangered species of birds, as well as many other plants and animals with unique physiology. Why Justices Scalia and Alito, and the millions of people in America who think similarly, cannot allow the government to have some control of their private lives in the name of protecting important natural systems such as wetlands is beyond me. The apparent indifference that many Americans seem to have towards the environment spreads beyond this, and one of the biggest examples is climate denial. As a Meteorology and Climatology major, my primary interest as far as the environment goes is climate change, but I know that this issue is complex and involves numerous natural systems besides our atmosphere. I am excited to have the opportunity to learn about the how Fair Weather Farm works, because I believe that small organic farms like it will become crucial to us as the effects of climate change become more tangible. Small farmers are, generally, more in tune to the weather and to their crops than those in charge of large-scale farming operations. This is important because many crops will only grow in certain climatic conditions, and I believe that small farms will be more adaptable to changing crops to match a changing climate. My goal for this semester is to take what I learn on Fair Weather Farm and use it to educate whoever I can on the importance of small farms, especially as they relate to climate change, in order to prevent the ignorance and indifference that colored the housing boom at the end of World War 2.