This is the end of one journey but the beginning of another. My time here at the farm has felt brief but as I consider my final reflections the experience seems profound.
The nature of Pepperfield effortlessly introduced me to a new collection of connections. As a result, I met local producers, food and hospitality providers, community leaders and countless others. Each one, touching on my journey and – knowingly or unknowingly – leaving a lasting impression; each new connection fostering the growth and development that I sought for so long. Decorah was, and still is, a receptive, welcoming community that took me into the fold without hesitation. This last 32 weeks threw me into the active social scene in Decorah. I attended more parties and social gatherings than ever before. Likewise, the people of Decorah have created something special: a progressive, loving community aware of each other and their surroundings. Similarly, it was this same community that acted as the conduit for so many unique culinary adventures. But it wasn’t just food centered experiences that occupied my time.
During my time here I encountered work (and play) so fantastic that it’s hard to recall all of it. But I do remember how fast it all started. Within months of arriving I had already secured a few jobs around town. And soon after, even more. I saw the whole gamut from weddings to parties – and trust me everything possible in between. Meanwhile at the farm, I was busy working away. Nearly 150 varieties were represented in our grow out this year and I had a hand in each one. Farming isn’t an easy job and by the end of this season I had amassed some pretty impressive figures. In a two acre garden I managed to haul over 8300 pounds of manure, transplant 2577 times, plant over 4139 seeds and mulch 2863 square feet of ground. This was exclusively the work I completed; these values would be much higher if tallied for the entire farm. My point is, I was quite busy. Simultaneously, I was still able to enjoy the nature around me. I took on foreign tasks like foraging for mushrooms, slaughtering a chicken and eviscerating animals to be used for eating. The combination of experiences were truly rewarding as a person but also as a chef. (I can’t nearly cover everything from this season, but you can check out the happenings of all 32 weeks here!) Moving forward I will cherish these experiences but also everything that I learned in the process.
At its roots, coming to Pepperfield was always about learning. From the beginning, my purpose was to learn how to grow food from the ground up. Likewise, I hoped to take some time to myself and readjust my mindset. As I look back at what I learned at Pepperfield, it’s hard to imagine that I managed to learn all that I did. Each day brought lectures from botany to esoteric philosophies challenging me on all fronts to observe, learn and retain. As a result I made one of the most profound discoveries of my life: food is a means of connection. Not only does it unify us as people, but it brings us closer – physically, mentally and spiritually – in one way or another, no matter how abstract. And, as I explored these possibilities of food, I began to feel awake, alive and almost transcended.
What started as a quest to slow down evolved into something even greater; changes to my body, mind and spirit, began to materialize. Then, I began to achieve a more relaxed lifestyle. The tension, built from so many years of pain, anger and frustration began to melt into a serenity within that I can only describe as internal compassion. I became aware of my choices and their consequences; I found peace with my mistakes and shortcomings. Similarly, I began the process of forgiveness with myself and began to reach out to share this with others in my life. I felt an immense amount of liberation as I began to identify the origins of my problems and charted a new course to resolve them. I may be leaving Pepperfield, but I hope to continue feeling as creative, relaxed and motivated as I had previously.
Don’t forget, we’re on the road for the next week touring various BBQ shops across the nation. More info on that tomorrow from the road. Stay posted, stay hungry (but not for to long)!