|Ana seeding onions, one of her favorite vegetables.|
I caught Ana Paul’s eye at 6:30 at the CSA on Thursday. Maybe you were there, too. Knowing that she had arrived at the farm more than twelve hours earlier, and had personally harvested and washed up much of the produce now out at the share barn, I could see the exhaustion. However, she beamed a warm smile as I went by, and I remembered what she had told me the day before. I’d asked her what surprised her by working on this farm. She considered, and then observed that despite her tiredness at the end of each day, her motivation and desire to rise each morning to do this physical work hasn’t waned. In fact, she has found herself with moreenergy on days off than when she’s had less-physical jobs. That stamina is key to farming.
Ana didn’t grow up on a farm or even much of a garden; her family was too often on the move. Her parents were teachers for military children, and Ana was raised in Europe – Germany mostly, along with Spain and Italy. This upbringing did instill in her an openness to adventure, which is certainly another key to farming. She attended college in Virginia, but then returned to Germany. That is when she met her husband, Scott. Ana and Scott were both helping out with coaching the tennis team at Ana’s former high school. This was an apt place for them to meet, as both aspire to be teachers.
Ana and Scott moved to Amherst last August, and worked at Red Fire Farm nearby for the autumn. Then, while Scott earned his teaching degree, Ana decided to pursue a full-season farm apprenticeship. Her interest in farming developed as a key part of her passion to act on climate change. To her, the issues surrounding climate change keep coming back to agriculture.
Ana notes that Simple Gifts Farm, “is special, because the animals and vegetables work together.” She is also intrigued by soil fertility practices, and has worked with managing fertility to the crops here with the drip irrigation system. Her favorite job on the farm is chores, which rotates among the apprentices. During chores week is when one has the chance to interact with the livestock, and Ana enjoys the feedback, remarking, “Veggies don’t talk back so much.” In particular, she loves the personality and character in the pigs. She is finding the tractor work more challenging, especially lining up to put on implements with the 3-point hitch. She is ascending that learning curve, and anticipates getting to a certain comfort level, though she still doesn’t see herself as a “tractor girl.”
When I asked her what her favorite vegetable is, her answer – garlic and onions – was in line with her (well-deserved) reputation as an excellent cook. Many a great dish begins with sautéing this savory duo.
Ana plans to become a teacher, and to do advocacy work around climate change. She hopes to integrate her experience in the practice of growing food into the classroom, and also at a homestead scale with Scott. I predict that her calm personality, openness to adventure, and stamina will lead to a lifetime of inspired teaching, opening doors to adventures in food, stewardship and life to many students and citizens.