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In Circles

by Blain Snipstal

In the field notes that the reader is most familiar with, we, the collection of writers, usually write from the perspective of the “farmer.” We may, quite frequently throughout our writings, use the phrase “as a farmer,” or “I’m a farmer,” or “the thing about farming.” However, I want to be frank. I’m speaking as a ‘being’ first and as a ‘being that tends the land’ second.

As mentioned before, I came to this community of learners and lovers of food after a crash; after a period of tumult, of distress and uncertainty.

I believe in circles, in cycles; ellipses of itinerant paths that connect in ways that couldn’t be predicted or planned. Traveling in those circles, never repeating the same step, brings power to our character, and groves to the paths that lie ahead of us.

I was once in the same position as Sky and Susan are now, as apprentices. My apprenticeship was in Lawrence, Kansas, on Moon on the Meadow Farm. I started in March of 2010 with no real production agriculture experience under my belt. There were two apprentices that year – myself and another fellow. The farm had one tractor that mostly served as a place holder for boxes and seed trays. The field labor was left to our hands and backs. We were 3.2 acres of veggie production with a CSA the size of the Ecosystem Farm. During this time I was still a full time student-athlete.

The apprenticeship was to last from March until November. For me, this ended in August without warning. I started pre-season training for the upcoming soccer season, unable to do both soccer and farm; I stuck with prior commitments and discussed this with my farm manager before taking the apprenticeship. We discussed taking two weeks off in August and returning in September. September came. I never received the call to return to the farm. “So it goes,” I thought, but in the back of my mind I knew it wasn’t complete.

Two years later, I found myself in Southern Maryland after returning to the country from living abroad. I came here thinking things were to be anew, fresh – starting from a new place. I was mistaken. There was the crash, and the phone call came. Unlike two years earlier, I was on the receiving end of the call. Then came August and I was back on the farm, full time. Within the first week, although I didn’t speak this to anyone, I realized what was happening. I was continuing a circle.

We all share in these types of moments, I believe. Those moments where we get the sense that we are continuing something we started but did not finish; that we are moving in a direction that is supported by our past experiences. And, I suppose that this is always happening; that we are either continuing circles, finishing, or beginning new ones.

These motions of continuance, finishing and beginning circles and paths are simultaneous. They’re not linear, they’re not perfect and they’re not singular. Often, I feel, we believe that we have “a path”; a journey divinely scribed in the heavens, uniquely crafted for each us. Perhaps we do. Who am I to say otherwise? But, I like to perceive that we have several, maybe even an infinite number of paths. Paths that shift and shake after every step we take, like moist soil depressing underneath your footstep. It’s a matter of seeing them.

This is my last field notes with the Ecosystem Farm crew. Because of them, and the land, I am able to see more than I did when I got there. Thanks to them, and unbeknownst to me, I have completed one circle, all the while starting and continuing infinitely more. For that, I extend my heart and hands to all those who did that without knowing so.

Thank you.

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