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Volunteers at Capay Organic Farm (Photo by Tara Luz Stevens, http://www.tlsimages.com/)

I am a city girl at heart. So what on earth was I doing walking around in the mud at an organic farm in the boondocks? Good question! A friend of mine had discovered an opportunity to volunteer at an area farm, to be able to see first hand the true source of our food. Though I had grown up in a semi-rural suburb, and we did have a chicken coop in our backyard, that was the closest I had ever come to living a farm experience.  I immediately recognized this as a fantastic opportunity to step outside of myself, out of my comfort zone, out of my daily life and habits.

We set out on the 2+ hour drive up to Capay, CA. As we drove further and further away from the urban life that I know and love so well, the landscape became more and more rural and remote, with nothing but farms and the occasional dusty gas station. Convinced by the beautiful rolling hills all around us that I could be in Tuscany, we pulled into the dirt road that was the entrance to Capay Organic Farm. I chuckled at the directions we were given: “turn left up the dirt road, go past the grapes and turn right at the old tractor.” I was immediately reminded of an area of Vermont where my mom used to live, where I was often told to turn left at the manure pile! What ever did the UPS man do before GPS? A far cry from the urban jungle I call home.

When we arrived on the farm, we were told that they were currently working to address an aphid infestation, and that since it is an organic farm (meaning no pesticides!) we would be releasing 250,000 live lady bugs: nature’s perfectly designed solution for an aphid problem. Remembering that years prior my brother had tried this experiment on his tiny yard in the city, I had a general idea of what we would be doing, though this was on a scale thousands of times greater than my brother’s cute little garden. I was excited to experience something completely new and unique.

As we walked down to the particular field of crops that we would be treating, I admired the stunning rose garden to the left, and then smiled as I saw the chicken coop to the right, reminded of a more innocent time gone by, when the highlight of my day was fetching fresh, warm eggs out from under a hen in our backyard chicken coop. I laughed to myself at the memory of our sweet dog Freckles chasing an escaped chicken around the yard.

We continued down the dusty path, sizzling in the hot afternoon sun, until we came upon the main fields of crops. As we walked by each row, our host told us about the different crops: strawberries, cilantro, lettuce, bok choy, asparagus, beets, etc. I reminisced about my jovial grandfather, who in life had been an avid gardener and was always teaching us about the different vegetables in his little garden. I was once again reminded of a simpler time, of a generation that had more conscious awareness of and respect for the land, of a generation who tilled their own land and cooked from their own garden. I thought about how far removed most of us are from our food source, especially those of us living the urban city life, and I contemplated our society’s lack of connection to the land. I yearned for the return of such a grounded and connected way of life.

As I surveyed the scene I was in awe of the pure bounty of nature, of how perfectly each crop sprouted from the earth, of how each fruit and vegetable had such a unique and specific color and design, that allowed it to grow precisely in its own way, whether underground, above ground on a stalk, or hanging from a tree; all so different in their forms, but yet so similar in their perfection and their source. All had sprung from the same beautiful and bountiful Mother Earth. I was immediately moved and humbled by the pure wonder of it all.

I began to feel the sun scorching my shoulders. Coming out of the often foggy city of San Francisco, it had been a while since I’d been in such intense sun and heat. My thoughts turned immediately to the farm workers, to the incredibly hard-working, tough, and resilient men and women who spend 10 hours a day in this blistering sun, doing the back-breaking work of picking each crop by hand. Had I ever had the opportunity to thank a single one of them for the fresh fruits and vegetables that I buy at my cute little neighborhood farmers’ market? Had any of us?

Gavin Taylor, Farm Fresh to You & Capay Organic (Photo by Tara Luz Stevens, http://www.tlsimages.com/)

We arrived at the crops with the aphid infestation. First we would work on the beets, then the spinach. We opened up the first bag of stirring lady bugs, eager to escape from their trap. Our host reached his arm in and took a handful of the beautiful little creatures; they quickly covered his forearms. He began to walk the fields releasing lady bugs as he went. I hesitated. Though I’ve always loved nature, was I brave enough to take a handful of live bugs? Well, thankfully these were a less scary variety of bugs. I mean, who doesn’t love a ladybug?! I squinched my face as I reached my hand into the pulsating pile of lady bugs. I pulled my hand out and stared at the mound of life in my hands. I marveled at the hundreds of vulnerable and delicate little creatures that walked all over each other and up my arm, tickling me as they went. “What an incredible Earth we live on, what an amazing web of life, ” I thought to myself.

A few hours later, as we embarked on the long drive back to the city, I was deep in thought. I stared into the darkness that enveloped us, gazed up at the night sky full of bold, bright stars, and admired the tiny sliver of the moon. I reflected upon the totally unique and awesome experience that we had just had. What had started out as a 2-hour volunteer stint in the hot sun would turn out to teach me some beautiful lessons: I had a new-found appreciation for a simpler time and way of life and wondered if and when we might return to that, I had a renewed and profound recognition of the intricate design of nature and the pulsation of life all around us, and lastly… I knew I would never again go to the farmers’ market without saying a sincere “thank you.”

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About Farm Fresh to You & Capay Organic:

Growing organic produce since 1976, Farm Fresh to You harvests over 100 types of fruits and vegetables on their Capay Organic Farm and offers over 14 different types of produce boxes for delivery to homes and offices in California.  To learn more, please click here.

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