I am sixth generation Californian and a first generation farmer. It would be easy to think that I’m the black sheep of the family, the unconventional organic farmer, the one who doesn’t have a ‘real job’ and is wasting away two College degrees. You would think that maybe my parents would be hoping that this is a faze and that I would one day get a ‘real job,’ invest my ‘extra time’ in having grandkids. So, in the spirit of Father’s Day, I wanted to dedicate this post to how these statements couldn’t be further from the truth.
I grew up in a tongue and groove log home. On any given summer morning, it wasn’t uncommon to wake up to the sound of a chain saw and NPR. The thought was always, what wall is Dad taking out now? There were closets that became bathrooms, extensions that became offices, and holes punched out to spontaneously add windows. My Dad molded my childhood home like it was a sandcastle, simply knock out A and add B, and repeat. Near the pool we had a small garden. I remember a cold frame from a sliding glass door, a compost pile that would essentially just attract the deer and always the attempt to grow the staples, tomatoes, corn and fair worthy pumpkins. I don’t remember us being that attentive with the garden, but it was there and every year as the weather warmed, my Dad’s attempt to grow Siskiyou County’s biggest pumpkins resurfaced along with the families of blue bellied lizards.
It was in this setting where I became an authentic product of my parents. It was the backdrop where they taught me how to create life, to use my hands and to use my heart to honor the hours in each day. To have action and interaction with life directly, to wake up, decide to take out a wall and put in a window, and do it. It was with these principals that my heart understood farming. Like a hypothetically sterotypical cavewoman, I thought: soil, water, sun, seeds, food, family, eat, good. These are the elements of life, I understood this from the beginning and wanted to root myself in it.
I know I am this authentic product, because my parents understand this rooting. They not only see the link, but they hold it dear in their hearts. That working to live is the point, because you can’t designate when you’r living and when your not, so live through your work and do the work that becomes your story of living. It’s been overwhelming to see the foundation that my parents have given me become played out in the fabric of this farm’s soil and in the deep soil stained grooves of my hands and to know that I’m doing them proud.
My Dad loves the farm. He visits with the composure of supervisor, always starting off with a walk into the fields, checking in on the tomatoes, the greenhouse and counting the chickens. He also meanders with curiosity, finding bird’s nests, catching snakes, diagnosing water leaks and identifying hawks. I can see a unlocking sense of excitement each time he visits and whether he knows it or not, it’s often his energy that can bring me back to being present with this overall project, which I sometimes just think of as truly exhausting labor. My parents have given me everything. I have always looked up to my dad, my soccer coach, my teacher, my deep hugger, joke repeater, cat lover, house builder, project juggler, car fixer, joke repeater and now farmer.
Maybe we are at a new paradigm, where a sixth generation Californian, first generation farmer is passing the trade up, into the generations. A family farm that has been sown by youth, to take care of the elders that I love. To pass up the knowledge, to pass up the story and to pass the freshly harvest food around the family table. With all my love, Happy Father’s Day Pops!