160 hours and four weeks later and I have graduated from the School of Abbondonza. Yesterday marked my last day. I can’t believe how hard and fast I fell for this place. I slipped into a special time on this farm and could easily see myself never leaving. My departure is bittersweet, however, because I’m excited to see what my next experience brings. Thanks to Abbo, I’m even more committed to this project and know I’ve made the right decision to take this food journey to the next level.
The day started like any other day gathering in the nursery outside the greenhouse to get our action plan for the day. As a team of eight, we descended upon the onion field to rescue the crop from pig weed and Purslane – a day or two more and we could have lost the whole thing. We moved down each row wrapping up one side and down the other in smooth efficiency looking back on a clean row of onion greens which reached toward the sun with stems in the air. The weeds pulled gratifyingly sweet from the soft soil which uplifted the morale encouraging a vibrant conversation of life stories and deep philosophies. Rich (farm owner) recalled the epic year of 1999 down on a a farm in New Mexico. He was adding 5 acres of 15-year old pasture land to an already 20-acre farm. The sod was a foot deep of tightly woven grasses. They tilled it five times and still the field was not ready for planting. Rich stood up from his place in our chain gang and reenacted the process of watering the land intensely to loosen the grassy weave. We listened like we were watching an episode of “The Greatest Catch” as his arms waved and his peppered hair sprouted up from his visor. Rich animated the mud bog which the water created and how they were up to their knees hurling large sections of sod in an attempt to break the soil for seeding. It was a beautiful moment and will forever stand vividly in my memory. The whole day was in technicolor. I was very present, living in each moment and archiving everything with mental snapshots.
In the afternoon, dark clouds moved in and it began to rain lightly. Lightening threatened to close in but stayed on the horizon for an impressive light show. A farm field is even prettier when mixed with stormy, afternoon light and a warm breeze which carries the scent of wet earth, distant lilacs and peonies. It makes you stop, sit up and breath deep. At the start of our last project, Rich gathered the crew. Shifting skies lingered and we circled together at the head of a new row. Standing in the green grass between fields, Rich made a small presentation to recognize the farm’s deep appreciation for my service over the last month. He was holding a cut-off sleeve of an old Carhart jacket. Wrapped inside was my own personal trowel and clipping shears. The enclosed note which I read aloud left my voice waffling on the verge of tears. Hugs all around! I wasn’t expecting to become so emotionally attached to these people and this land. I’m so glad it did, because my internship was much richer as a result. It is truly one of the most powerful and transformative experiences of my life.
As the clock struck 5:30pm, I stood up from my position in the planting line signaling the time for my departure. All the guys rose. I put my newly, initiated trowel to my forehead and gave a trowel salute. They returned the gesture and we smiled at its symbolism. One last hug and I made my way down the furrow one last time.