After graduating from Hamilton College in 2014 and spending my last summer in the field with Apogee, fellow Assistant Director Jack Messerly and I started our first fall away from the comforts of a college campus by driving across the country. We ended our journey at a small community farm in the (aptly-named) town of Boonville, CA. We spent six months on the farm, and these were some of the most hard-working, satisfying, and influential months of my life.
The work was varied and challenging – there were tough days consisting of fence building and weeding, but I quickly learned how important these projects were to the success and function of the farm. The moments that really stick out in my memory, however, are these beautiful moments of connectedness – to the community, to the food, to the process. I still dream of bottle feeding baby lambs who had lost their mother during birth, harvesting fresh greens, and collecting eggs that end up on my breakfast plate later that morning. I’ll never forget eating cheese we made from the goat milk I had collected, or learning how pickles and jam are really made. And, perhaps above all, I miss feeling tired, sore, and dirty – but simultaneously healthy and whole.
These moments and feelings are irreplaceable – and, I must admit, my mind drifts to these moments occasionally when my back aches from too many hours in front of my computer or when someone in the office surprises us with donuts for the second time in one week (not that I’m really complaining about that of course…).
For these reasons, and many more, I was thrilled when Kevin and Chad presented the idea of Apogee running a Maine Farm to Table trip and even more thrilled when I learned I was to be in charge of planning it. Combining my passion for farming and food with my belief in Apogee’s mission is an exciting challenge.
Now that I’m in the full swing of the planning process, Maine Farm to Table (MFT) is beginning to solidify and feel real. My mind swims with questions about how to make this trip the best that it can be. How do we give students a real taste of farming in just 10 days, and also ensure that it remains, first and foremost, an Apogee program at heart? How do we make MFT approachable to every participant, no matter their existing relationship to food?
These questions have been both fun and thought-provoking. Scouting and planning is certainly the joy of getting to visit farms and meet local farmers, but it’s also the puzzle of scheduling and making reservations. It’s a combination of logistics and day-dreaming. How do we make the nuts and bolts a baseline for the magical outcome of hard work, play, and beauty that we hope for?
While I don’t have all of the answers yet, I can give you a few more details. Many of the connections feel obvious – Apogee and farming are both about community, trying new things, being outdoors, and growing. Using these basic connections as starting points, MFT will have all of the hallmarks of an Apogee trip – two fabulous leaders, up to 12 awesome students, and the goals of fun, friendship, accomplishment, community, and adventure for all. Within that, MFT will also strive for students to learn where their food comes from, and appreciate the work of a farming lifestyle. They’ll get excited about good food, cooking, and working outdoors. And, last but certainly not least, they’ll enjoy beautiful Maine outdoors with their new group of friends through hiking, swimming, and kayaking.
With open minds and watering mouths, we’re excited to see MFT in action for the summer of 2018!