New Agrarian Voices

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





Lauren Lees, APPRENTICE, Richards Ranch, CA

May 2021

I always knew I didn’t want a ‘real job’. I cannot remember a time when work and life were separable. Which may say more about my memory than anything. However, I can remember sitting at my adolescent self’s desk, defiantly proclaiming to my parents that there is just SO MUCH SUFFERING IN THE WORLD and it was my responsibility, nay, duty!, to do something about it. And they supported me. They supported me through college, through my fierce naïveté and passion, through many conversations ‘informing’ them as to the many injustices of the world. I saw a future for myself working with disenfranchised peoples in ‘underdeveloped’ countries, devoting my life to helping others in crisis situations in foreign places. And the more I learned, the more I.. began to question. I began to question the narratives about why the world was the way it was, the motives of the rule makers, the paradigms of power, the efficacy of the solutions. By the time I had neared graduation, the idea of being yet another privileged citizen of a first world country full of its own economic and societal inequalities, traveling to an impoverished nation in a crisis most likely created by said first world, to preach the gospel of development, felt highly.. hypocritical. Plus, I had come to believe that grassroots, ground-up efforts were huge is creating real societal change. So I put my binoculars down, and looked at what was right in front of my face.

It was the food system that really caught my attention. The subsidies, the CAFOs, the food desserts, the diet induced health epidemics. I had long held a love for being outside, and experiencing wild places, and as I pivoted towards issues within my own society, I vacillated between environmental stewardship- keeping the wild wild, and agriculture- which I saw as human manipulated nature. For I felt that communities needed access to numerous small farms growing real, nutritious foods to move the needle. However, I first decided to try the wild wild, and I took several internships at National Parks, the Grand Tetons in Wyoming and Olympic National Park in Washington. And I had truly beautiful, character developing times in those places. But the bureaucracy and desk oriented nature of the work? Not for me. So I came back to California and took a job at a budding heirloom seed company, and have been completely unable to shake farming since. There is a lot I could say about the satisfaction of the work, of being outside daily and in touch with the environment, and using my hands and my body, of watching things grow, of nurturing ‘real’ food. Over a decade later, and I still often think of the words of a farmer looking out at a vibrantly healthy field, row after row exploding with color and sheen, “If looking out at this field gives you a deep feeling of fulfillment and happiness, you know you’re in the right profession”. At the time I wasn’t sure if I was, but I can not quantify the amount of time that I have spent watching animals graze and frolic, and plants grow, and felt that deep sense of contentment and gratification. Farming has a romantic reputation for good reason, and I have spent a lot of days feeling very lucky to do what I do. But it can also be grueling, never ending, beating your body and sanity to a pulp, and leaving it’s dirty dishes in the sink and the front door open when it’s done. But I wholeheartedly love what I do, and that’s the bottom line through all the bad days and times of doubt. Because there’s got to be something down there right? I didn’t want a ‘real’ job, and I didn’t get one. I’ve found a lifestyle I’m passionate about that makes me a living. That’s certainly not the same for everyone in agriculture, and I respect that. However I’m looking at a way to marry the wild wild nature and our human created agriculture, in the way of regenerative practices, and specifically regenerative grazing practices. This apprenticeship, a decade later, feels like walking through a door I hadn’t known existed. The many different paths and trails I’ve taken within agriculture have all seemed to coalesce to bring me here. Healing the land and raising nourishing foods? I’m here to learn.

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