My name is Rachel and I am the 2018 summer intern at Boundbrook Farm. I am about to start my junior year at The University of Vermont in pursuit of my Food Systems degree. As a Food Systems major, I learn a lot about the challenges and benefits of sustainable agriculture, and wanted my own personal experience of growing food this summer. I was drawn to the unique integration of rice and duck farming at Boundbrook Farm - who wouldn’t want to spend their summer singing to ducklings? However, I quickly learned on my first day that running a rice farm is much more work than just splashing around in the paddies with ducks.
The most important thing I have learned from this internship so far is how much we take food for granted. For most people, when we go to the grocery store, we are attracted to the bright and nifty packaging, and the convenience of easily prepared foods. We push our carts down the aisles complaining about the price of produce trying to find something that our families will eat. However, before starting this internship I had never taken the time to sit back, look at my food, and really think, where did it come from?
Someone worked really hard to grow that lettuce that sits perfectly under my hamburger bun. Someone else worked really hard to raise the chickens that laid the eggs I had in my omelet. And that rice that is packed so perfectly into that tiny little sushi roll? Someone worked really, really hard to grow that rice.
Working on the farm has been a test of endurance both physically and mentally. My spine cringes every time I hear the words “hand transplanting rice” in anticipation of spending the next few hours crouched over. The blisters and bruises on my hands along with my dirt-stained fingernails scream that I work on a farm. But my body has gotten stronger. My skin is tanner. I have a new level of physical endurance that cannot be reached on a treadmill, but most importantly my knowledge of our food system has greatly expanded.
While I may never use a rice transplanter again, I know that I have the ability to quickly learn how to use new tools and machinery. I now understand how the changing climate impacts the way we grow food. Since the pond dried up in the unforgiving heat this summer, we had to use water from the town to avoid crop failure. Each day there are new sets of goals that are commonly interrupted by challenges that are out of our control. Our job as farmers is to solve these challenges as smoothly as possible relying on science, experience, and a whole lot of trial and error.
However, our job is not to just solve these problems so that people can eat. Our job is to provide people with food in a way that is sustainable, so that future generations are able to continue this process that we have worked so hard to figure out. That is what makes Boundbrook Farm unique. We work with the natural system that is already in place and use it to our advantage, instead of manipulating the environment to fit a synthetic system.
So the next time you eat a meal look at its components and think about where they came from. How were they grown? Who grew them? How far did they travel to reach your plate? Really question where your food comes from so that the next time you go to buy food you are also working hard to reach a more sustainable food system.