Blog written by Rob
When I started Farm School I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. It’s not as though farm school, let alone farming, is a familiar concept. I questioned whether my decision made sense. My experiences during the first week confirmed that I had made the right choice. Let me tell you about the school, my experience, how I found myself in the program and what farm school is ultimately about.
I quickly learned in the first few weeks just how much knowledge and how many skills farmers need to have. If you want to be a jack of all trades, keep busy and have work that nourishes the soul, farming might be for you. It’s at once running a business, playing biologist, heavy labourer, inventor, carpenter, plumber, chief cook and bottle washer and more.
We learn through experience by racing to get in and out of the pig pen quickly so that we don’t get bowled over by very excited, hungry pigs, planting thousands of onions and feeding bacteria in compost tea that will, in turn, feed our crops. We learn through classes that vegetables are still alive and breathing in the fridge, bees dance to tell other bees where nectar is and that there are over 10 billion organisms in a square metre of soil! Speaking of soil, we’ve learned more than ever that the work of farmers is to steward the soil. Plants want to grow and as ‘farmers of soil’ our job is to protect and promote organisms that make available to plants the nutrients they need to thrive.
Growing the very things that sustain human life is very empowering. It’s extreme DIY. It’s also very enjoyable to spend the entire day outside. For these reasons, I have always wanted to homestead and no one thing I’ve ever done has prepared me for it. Five years ago, a friend encouraged me to go to farm school. I didn’t. I was working for a tech/communications company helping governments engage their citizens online. That work was done remotely, online and inside, and it started to feel like it was no longer the right fit. I wanted to work with my body and my mind, outside, and with a team of people. I had worked outside before as a landscaper and grew perennials but farming was a whole different domain. I enrolled in a few classes in a plant science program to see how I would do in a learning environment. I was certain I would go to farm school, almost. In wavering, I told my boyfriend, twice – having a direct impact on his plans – that I was giving up on the idea of farm school to then finally change my mind one more time. “I just have to do this.”
I’m really happy with my decision. Three months in, I still don’t know where and if I will farm. Regardless, I’ve learned valuable skills that will be with me for the rest of my life. The farm is a living laboratory of organic agriculture and life. We’ve learned to work with what you have. Try something and if it doesn’t work, try something else. It’s like life. It’s an educational farm where the by-product is food and transformative personal change. Many other students are in the same situation, on the cusp of life changes or making decisions about their future. Their stories are inspiring and encouraging. We’ve bonded as a solid team from this shared experience of working together, eating together and growing together.
The staff at the farm know how special the farm is – they created it. They’ve put incredible care and attention into building a program and a farm from scratch that is rigorous, practical, and thorough. They answer all of our questions, consider and accommodate our requests and with such a small group, they’ve become friends. Life changing, life supporting and life-giving – this is what the Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School is really all about.
I didn’t know if the program was for me and in retrospect, I made the right decision. If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, and you have been for a while, take the plunge and go to farm school.