Overnight, there's been a shift. The sporadic, hurried days of February are behind us. In part, it's because my hours increase in March and I'll now be working full time, so I can really start settling into a routine and feel more in tune with all the growth and happenings at the farm. Equally important is that the season-long interns started today, and Michael Lee came back to work through the year with us.
I feel like Michael needs no introduction, for so many reasons. He feels like a heartbeat of the farm, like when he's there we flow more easily, smile more freely, work faster and harder because we're having fun doing it. He's unbelievably positive, vocal about it, and not in any way overbearing or disingenuous. He literally runs or skips everywhere he goes, and lets out a big "whoop!" or gives a round of high fives at every completed project. The Youth Farm has been a part of his life for six years now-- first as a youth crew member, then a crew leader, then an intern, and now he's been on staff for the past two seasons. I'm continually blown away by his energy, and inspired to be the best leader, worker, and friend that I can be. How's that for an introduction?!
With Michael back three days a week, and the interns here two days a week, we're finally going to hit a stride. The interns' work days are closed to the public, so they tend to be more focused than open volunteer days. We can do highly skilled tasks, take time out for in-depth workshops, and I'm able to keep my brain and hands tuned in to what we're doing rather than veering off to welcome new volunteers or check in on concurrent projects. Today we mixed orientations and introductions with periods of work to keep warm and refresh our minds after lots of talking.
There's Phil, who's been a long-time "cubicle worker" helping people with mortgages, leases, and audits. He's an avid outdoorsman and has been wanting to shift his career toward horticultural work, but never gets considered for those jobs since he lacks any experience. On paper, he didn't strike us either, but after meeting the guy Ted and I were sold! He's bright, enthusiastic, funny, and brings a fresh curiosity to the group. I'm also really hoping that this internship gives him the experience and skills he needs to make the shifts he wants.
Then there's Sophie, who works as a seamstress and studied comparative literature in university, and has some market gardening experience under her belt. She got thrown into the fire last summer as an Americorps volunteer, running a large garden at an alternative high school in Roseburg with almost no direction or guidance. It sounds like the experience was challenging (of course) and really rewarding, and left her wanting to try another season with more training. From that background, she's already asking pointed questions that dig deeper than what I usually hear, so I'm excited to be pushed to learn more myself.
And Alex! I worked with Alex when she was a youth crew leader and farm stand manager two years ago. She had some health issues toward the end of the season and drifted away, but after another year of serving in a local restaurant, she's ready to intentionally move back into the farming world. She started at the farm as a crew member when she was only 14 years old, and immediately impressed everyone with her strength and leadership. I can see why. As a 19 year old, she's more mature than most 29 year-olds I meet, continues to spread positivity all around her, and has an uncanny knack for sharing her knowledge without seeming pretentious or prideful. We are so lucky that she wants to continue to learn and work with us.
Having both Alex and Michael back reminds me how new I am to this farm, and to farming in general. It reminds me that I'm a student, too, and that everyone who comes to the farm has so much to teach me. Learning works so well in cohorts like this: as the core of the farm throughout the long season, we'll all get closer, have new questions, and look at the world a little differently on the other end.