New Interns Take Root

After spending two days on a bus ride from my hometown in Iowa, I hopped in a manual-shift truck and headed out to the farm where I would intern for the next three to six months. On our way there, Joe—the farm’s owner, Kristen—the other intern, and I stopped at a burrito joint before piling back into the truck, bound for a few miles of bumpy dirt road that crossed paths with everything from the San Pedro River, Jack Rabbits, Roadrunners, cacti to the well-known dryness of the Sonoran soil. As the tires from the car kicked up my first whiff of what was soon to develop into mild allergies, the eight acres that are Southwinds Farm materialized before us. I was delivered to a picnic table well-shaded beneath tarps outside the RV where Kristen and I would soon be sleeping, eating, showering, reading, and watching movies together, and there, gathered at that table, we ate our first meal.

Southwinds Farm is located on the eastern slope of the San Pedro Valley. At an elevation of 3,500 feet above sea level, the sun is closer and harsher than the Valley—our price to pay for an unrivaled view. The Rincon Mountain range, garnering Rincon Peak and Mica Mountain to the northeast, with the Whetstone Mountain range to the southeast play tricks with our eyes, changing from a speckled-green tan color under sunlight to deep blue silhouettes beneath the rainclouds. In our backyard is a mesa, and when we climb it we gain the view of the Dragoons and the Little Dragoons, rounding out our view of mountain ranges in a complete 360 degree circumference.

“Are you growing some dreadlocks?” Gentry, the apprentice and farm manager asks me. As I answer with a short explanation that they are natural-formed dreads, he flips through his phone to show me a picture of his dreadlocks before he had chopped his hair to the mere inch it stood at now.

Although he didn’t know it at a time, this mere act of sharing was as much as a welcome to me as the burrito had been after a 48-hour nearly-foodless journey. A friend of mine had interned at a farm in Washington where they had asked him to cut off his dreads. Learning that Gentry himself had recently had dreads, I cast this worry away.

One of the first things that Kristen and I learned on the farm was how to plant seeds into small blocks, water them until they start sprouting, then plant the entire block—sprout and all—into the beds for growing. We plant the sprouted blocks at night because the delay of sunlight helps them recover from the shock of transplantation into new soil. Another crucial step in shock absorption is to fertilize the plants right away. With a diluted mix of fish guts and kelp, we pour the nutrients onto the leaves and soil. This soaks in overnight, and by morning they are ready for the sun.

As new interns, Kristen and I had been transplanted from our own blocks in which we had heretofore grown our roots. Here, we had been placed in new soil—a larger bed—where, if we were to take advantage of it, our roots would grow well beyond the blocks, allowing us to remain more strongly rooted in our identities, expanding our access to fuller nutrients along the way. Here, with food picked fresh daily, it is easier for us to follow the diet we desire—simple, fresh, wholesome ingredients.

But it wasn’t just our access to nutrition that made us feel more welcome here. Joe has garnished us with many more acts of kindness, from sunshirts to neck coolers to chocolate, and more. Gentry introduced us to his friend, leant me a guitar for my stay here, and a book worth reading. It’s these little acts of kindness that have helped us absorb our former selves into this place we’ve plopped ourselves into. While we won’t lose our original shapings completely, our roots will spread and we’ll let this place become a part of us, and us a part of it. Well-fed, we wait for the morning light, when you can find us out in the field, snipping off greens, pulling up roots, and preparing the depleted beds for new sprouts to take root.

Not long after planting our first set of seed blocks, I saw the preliminary tufts of green starting to carve their ascension through the dirt. “Why are some of these sprouts bigger while some of them haven’t even appeared yet?” I asked Gentry one day, worried that Kristen and I had done something wrong in the process.

“They are just more excited to see the world,” he assured me. “Some are more eager than others.”

This post was created by Hallie Hayes, an intern at SouthWinds Farm.

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