by Lauren DiMinico
For as long as I can remember, I have loved to cook. As a kid I would watch cooking shows on TV and try to replicate the dishes I saw. After a few years of trial and error, I realized my best dishes were the product of using fresh, organic ingredients that I found at local farmers markets. This awareness prompted me to start my own garden and sparked an interest that would become a profound passion.
I started my first garden at my parents house in Massachusetts, a modest 20 x 20 plot with just enough space to harvest produce for my family. After the first season I was hooked. I loved everything about farming: flipping through catalogues to pick the perfect seeds, watching the first seedlings push their way up through the soil, stabilizing the plants as they grow tall, and finally harvesting the literal fruits of my labor. This process helped me develop a connection to my environment that I had never felt before. A simple and primal one that instilled a greater sense of appreciation for the world around me. When it was time to choose a college, I knew I wanted to explore this connection more. I chose environmental studies for my major and, during that time, learned of the detrimental effects of industrial agriculture on the health of humans and the environment. I knew after my studies I wanted to contribute to the shift from industrial to organic agriculture and work to reestablish the connection between farm and farmer.
I began this journey on an organic farm in Massachusetts. It was here that I was introduced to the concept of nutrient-dense farming, a method of farming that revolves around the remineralization of soil. I was taught that this cycling of nutrients results in soil fertility and produces crops with the highest nutrient levels possible. The importance of this recycling of nutrients is exemplified in the notion of “you are what you eat.” Our bodies and immune systems function better when we have the proper nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and one of the only way to obtain these is to eat organically grown produce. Working on this farm totally shifted my perception of food. When I was young, I farmed to enhance the taste of my dishes; now I farm to enhance the health of my body.
After working on several farms in Massachusetts, I began to wonder how organic farming differs from one region to another. Do people perceive the importance of farming differently? Is there a greater support system for small-scale farms? Or is it just simply a way of life? With these questions in mind, I decided to embark upon an explorative journey that took me to an organic farming community in Samoeng, Thailand, called Mindful Farm. During my stay at Mindful Farm, I was taught how to cultivate mindfullness, to be in the present, and to work harmoniously with nature. Living in this community allowed me to fully immerse myself in a life of simplicity, a life where I was once again shown the deep connection organic farming makes between humans and their environment. I left Thailand will a great sense of fulfillment and with the desire to cultivate a life for myself similar to the one at Mindful Farm.
When I reflect upon my time spent at Mindful Farm and the years before and after, I can see how greatly organic farming has impacted my life. It has broadened my understanding of the healing properties of organically grown food, brought me across the world to a new and exciting country, helped guide my career path, and more recently, brought me to Asheville, North Carolina. I moved here to continue the adventures brought forth to me through organic farming, and I look forward to contributing to the expanding farm-to-table movement. I know that if I never started farming, my life would be very different; I am thankful every day that I planted my first seed.
Organic Growers School is a non-profit organization providing organic education since 1993. Our mission is to inspire, educate, and support people in our region to farm, garden, and live organically.