by Amber Emens
When I think of where I started my journey in organic growing, it takes me back to the Michigan summers I enjoyed as a little girl. Summers were spent at my grandparents’ organic blueberry farm in the country. I would walk there every morning, taking a well-worn deer path (about a country mile) through the forest behind our house. I would pick blueberries, colorful flowers, and fresh mushrooms on my way, eager to explore all the edible foods that were growing in our woods and in their garden. My grandparents taught me that I was part of this ecosystem and that I needed to respect nature and the food we grow to nourish our bodies. I learned that nature provides everything we need in order to survive.
When I became older, I left home to attend college. I was living on a tight budget and could not afford healthy, local, organic food. I eventually fell into an unhealthy lifestyle of poor eating habits, sleepless nights of studying, and constant stress. It seemed that my immune system was deteriorating: I would frequently catch colds and sinus infections, my thyroid was attacking itself, I had gastrointestinal problems, and one day, my kidney became infected and shut down. I was taken to the hospital and missed school for two weeks. In that moment, I decided that I desperately needed to be proactive about my health and my body.
After I recovered, I immediately went back to my roots and planted a large organic garden in my yard and built a chicken coop. I learned how to cook nutritious organic meals and to take care of body. After some time I noticed a radical difference in my health. I had more energy, I could sleep better, and I hadn’t caught a cold in over a year! I felt healthier than I ever had in my entire life, and better yet, I felt the passion again! I felt the passion that I had when I was young and on my grandparents’ blueberry farm—growing our own healthy organic food, living sustainably, and connecting to nature.
Doing all of this for the first time again is exciting and invigorating. There is nothing like the feeling of picking the first ripe tomato from a plant that you grew and nurtured yourself—or the first time your hen lays an egg. I can remember frying up my first egg from my beautiful little Rhode Island Red. I cracked the egg in a cast iron pan of hot butter, and when I bit into the fresh, flavorful yellow yolk, I knew I could never go back to regular eggs from the grocery store. Even now, one of my favorite things to do is to sit in the warm, rich, bioactive soil of my own organic blueberry garden; pluck large plump blueberries off the bush, and eat them right out of my hand. The sweet juice drips all over my fingers and my work dress, but this does not concern me. I feel so alive and content. I feel a connection with everything around me. I am part of this ecosystem in a very productive and conscious way.
Organically growing my own food has changed my life and renewed my passion. With excitement and purpose, I began expanding my garden, going to earth-skill workshops, reading anything and everything about organic growing, and volunteering at farms during my summers. I would daydream about farming while sitting at my desk at my boring office job. As soon as I clocked out of work, I would race home—tearing off my uncomfortable, stuffy office clothes—so I could be outside tending my garden. Farming is all I ever think about, so I made another life-changing decision: this past year, I quit my job and moved to Asheville, NC, to start my own organic farm. I have joined WNC CRAFT through the Organic Growers School, and I plan on taking Farm Beginning training this upcoming fall. I have made organic farming my life’s purpose and believe that—with the help of my new community, CRAFT, and Organic Growers School—I will be able to make my dream a reality. I am so excited for what the future holds for me.
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.