New Agrarian Voices

Learn about the impressions and experiences of each year's cohort of apprentices in their own words.





Emma Davis, APPRENTICE, Vilicus Farms, MT

May 2021

My experience with agriculture started when I was very young. Both my parents worked weekdays and some weekends so I often went with my dad to his job at Living History Farms, a 500-acre interactive outdoor history museum. While he worked, the Farms became my play space. I was able to explore, help take care of the animals, and befriend (or be babysat by) the historians who worked at each site. As I grew up in Iowa I saw agriculture as the primary way that people interacted with the land. As an adult, I worked on small scale vegetable farms and created elementary school gardens where I experienced the beauty of working with the movements of nature and the power of knowing how our food is grown. I also felt the effects of living in a state that largely produces commodities, not food. Our agricultural policies and the metrics that we use to measure production benefits the industrial agricultural farms that I see growing thousands of acres of conventional corn along our highways. Those fields, and the chemicals that are sprayed on them degrade our lands, pollute our waterways, and harm our communities. Although what Iowa is experiencing is unique in some ways, the themes of industrial agriculture that harm people and the environment can be seen across our country. 

With this in mind, I made the leap to apprentice at Vilicus Farms. I wanted to understand how to scale up food production while working with the ecological cycles of a landscape. I came to Vilicus with several learning goals but what I have come to appreciate most during my short time here are the small things. An evening walking through a coulee and having the vast landscape reduced to a single type of grass beneath my boots. The unique excitement that comes from seeding all the legume strips before a big rain and appreciating the true value of moisture. Beginning to learn the basics of operation and maintenance of the machines on the farm and the role each of them plays in the disturbance and stewardship goals for the landscape. Time to think on the drive home from our northernmost fields. Going forward, I hope to continue to learn how to observe and interact with this work and the land around me.

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