In pursuit of a dream: Starting work at Yestermorrow

In 2008, as my husband and I traveled around the country and talked with friends about our dreams for the future, a couple people mentioned to us that we should really check out this school called Yestermorrow in Warren, Vermont. We stopped by and learned more about the internship programs in late August, and decided to apply; he for the design/build internship, and me for the year-long kitchen/garden internship. To our relief, surprise, and absolute delight, we were accepted. Following the December hubbub, we wound our way through northern Canada to the Mad River Valley in Vermont.

After all the scheming and the dreaming, this will be the first big step we'll take in pursuing in earnest the dream that has been unfolding inside and between us: to some day have a 21st-century kind of homestead, with a small vegetable farm as part of our income.

Worry is an almost perpetual state for me, one that I try and try to leave behind, but I still get caught up in second-guessing the certainty of this life I'm moving toward. I almost wish I could whisper it. Farming was not supposed to be a part of my white-collar trajectory. It's almost embarrassing sometimes to tell fellow graduates from college, or those who have known me for a long time, that this is what I'm doing. The looks I get can be quite repulsive. Is everyone's career exploration this reviled?

Despite the worry, the rest of the time I feel excited and determined. For the first time ever in my adult life, I feel like I have a direction that I want to move toward that's a little bit better defined than "I want to do something to make the world better." I had always imagined doing something Big and Important that involved an office in a city, a relevant wardrobe, and lots of pounding on desks. But it seems that I have been tagged to do something a little more down to earth — literally — something ordinary that has become radical, something small but perhaps more important than it's ever been: To grow food.

My poor mother says her hair is getting grayer by the minute. She's afraid that her daughter is going to become a hardened "farm frau," old before her time and weathered like a tree on a north-facing hill. This concerns me, because she has definitely been right before when I've really wanted something. (Hello, 4-inch-heeled, lace-up knee-high boots.) Maybe this dream is romanticized or out of reach.

I suppose it could be, but we have dreamt it, so how could we not try to pursue it?

These internships are just the start. I will get to try my hand at growing a garden and will share my progress  with you throughout the year. Part of my plan is to meet gardeners and farmers in the area for ideas from them — any suggestions from you, dear readers, are completely welcome. I hope at the end I have more confidence and knowledge to take it further, into the next endeavor. Even though I know I'm getting ahead of myself, I wonder about the end of the year, and what will be in store for my husband and me, my downtrodden home state of Michigan to which we are currently looking to return, and my struggling country and our neighbors; 2009 will be an interesting year to track as we all walk down connected roads leading to uncertain destinations.

Photo of garden from Yestermorrow's Campus Slideshow

10 Responsesto “In pursuit of a dream: Starting work at Yestermorrow”

  1. Stephanie says:

    As a fellow former Big and Important aspirant now living in the mountains and practicing holistic nutritions, I say....you go!
     
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  2. Rick says:

    I'm terribly envious -- cheers to you for succeeding in this way forward. In the years to come, I hope to make a similar switch in trajectory. A lack of means to make a living in my rural hometown drew me to cities to work at nonprofit orgs -- now, I find myself searching for a way back. Again, your anticipated success is an inspiration!

  3. Jackie says:

    Big and Important is in the eye of the beholder.  Farm away!

  4. Cornelia says:

    Beautifully written, Stephanie. Thank you. I aspire to one day spend time at Yestermorrow, but will stay tuned to their blog and to your updates in the mean time. For now I will continue to lace up my fancy city boots and buy, rather than grow, the bulk of my food. You will find fellow growers on our site (www.HOMEGROWN.org) as well.

  5. Megan says:

    Congratulations on your very brave journey.  I am a bit jealous of your new world.  I understand completely the reactions you're getting about your career path.  I am currently a (mostly) full-time mama and love it.  I am proud of where I am, while also facing questions from myself and others.  But what worthwhile path is without questions?

  6. tasterspoon says:

    I also wanted to remark on how well written this is.  And that I look forward to following along!

  7. Annie says:

    I love Yestermorrow. Years ago I went to Bread & Circus up there, and the whole place is magical. All the best to you in your journey. Annie K

  8. Bozobyker says:

    My dream was to feed my family in a fashion that my parents would never even have considered. I'm quite certain, at least in this sense, that I was a disappointment to them in where I lived and what our values consisted of. You and your husband, my dear, have somehow validated and made the countless solitary hours, the quarts of sweat, the endless searching of seed catalogs, the planting of flats to be started under lights, the steamy days of puttin' up, the digging of snow off carrots and the inestimable reward of listening to offspring saying " Do I gotta eat this too?" ... somehow there seems to have been a reason for this passing of the torch. From the days when I bought those stupid full lace-up knee high boots (as practical as union suit long -johns without buttons or zippers)  to where you and T. have evolved to now seem light years ago.
    There are no disappointments in life, only opportunities that we let slip farther and farther from our outstretched fingers because we must stretch to reach them. You may not have them within a firm grasp yet, but neither are they receding in the distance. Don't whisper, don't be embarrassed- Live! Find purpose! Dream! Achieve! (and plant and eat).
    You desire to feed others and it warms my heart on a cold January day. Where did this concept of a "white-collar trajectory" emanate from? You are and will be a communicator who shares from all these supposedly disparate experiences- these are the seeds that need to be planted and nurtured. Keep on keeping on because by looking backward you will probably end up on a path not to be traversed.
     

  9. Molly says:

    Old before your time? Good heavens, no! I've gardened all my life and I look and act and feel younger than most women 20 years younger. Just wear sunscreen and a good hat and you won't be weathered at all. Just strong, fit, and healthy. My mother gardened (and made most of her income from the sale of fruits and vegetables at our farm stand) until she was 94. Two years later she was dead.  So there. :)

  10. Welcome to Vermont! You'll be a bit north and west of us. We deliver our pastured pork through that area. Don't worry about nays, you're headed for the good life.