So I’m a professional organic farmer now. Or at least thats what I’m saying after volunteering at EarthDance Farm School. Tucked away in Ferguson, Missouri, EarthDance is a little farm with loads of history. What started as a family farm in 1883 has now grown into a non-profit that develops farmers and fosters the community.
Essentially EarthDance is part farm, with row upon row of spinach, arugula and carrots. And part school, with apprentice and summer programs. They run a variety of activities to educate all ages about organic farming. But it’s their apprenticeship program that remains a major component of what they do. This program basically educates beginning farmers in the skills of sustainable agriculture from the seed to the market. I first heard about them when a friend of mine graduated from this program. Since then, I’ve been to a couple of events that benefited the farm. It’s only right that I check it out myself.
When my friends and I arrived, we were given a quick tour. EarthDance sits on 14 acres. It’s home to two high tunnel/hoop houses, a traditional green house, and a companion plant garden. First on the agenda was the de-weeding of the garden beds. (aka my least favorite part of the visit.) Organic farms don’t use pesticides or herbicides while growing their crops. They do it old school. So we got our tools and got down and dirty. I pulled weeds. I was covered in mud. But the light breeze and Talking Tom, the farm Cat, was good company.
Fun Fact: One cool method I’ve never seen before was the use of billboards to prevent weed growth. Basically old billboard vinyl is donated to the farm. The farmers use the vinyl to cover garden beds prior to planting crop. This vinyl blocks the garden bed from being exposed to sunlight. The weeds can’t grow without it and when the farmers are ready to transfer their crop, they don’t have to deal with weeds! (and that vinyl stays out of landfills)
Anyway, after most of the weeds were pulled, we went on to the fruit trees. Apple, pear, and paw paw trees grew along the back perimeter of the farm. Our job was to line the bottom of the trees with wood chip mulch. It took me awhile to get the hang of it and I almost ran into people, but pushing the wheelbarrow was pretty fun.
It felt good to give back and be apart of something bigger than myself. Some of the crops grown on the farm will eventually make their way to the Ferguson farmers market. Others are purchased by the local school district to provide fresh produce on salad bars.
Who knew that providing free labor would be such a good experience!? So good that we were there for four hours and I didn’t even notice so much time had went by. It’s funny because all day I attempted to talk myself out of going. I love plants and I love nature, but something about volunteering at a farm felt almost overwhelming in theory. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t listen to that voice of fear. Here’s to more trips pushing me out of my comfort zone!