By Audrey Barker Plotkin
To Sam DeBoskey, farming feels like activism that he can get behind with his whole person. Picking tomatoes, moving cows to a new pasture, and tending the soil are all physical acts, but ones that together move towards his ideal of doing regenerative and positive work. As we chat (and pick tomatoes) I can hear the philosophy student and idealist in Sam.
|“Animals make me happy,” says Sam DeBoskey. The cow agrees.
Sam grew up in Denver, Colorado, and first came out to Amherst to attend Hampshire College. He was studying philosophy, sociology and anthropology when he took a summer job on a cattle ranch back in Colorado. Farming manifested the ideas of sustainability and community he was studying, and he returned to Pine Cliff Ranch for three seasons. There, he helped to manage 250 cows on a rotational grazing system. The farmer there called himself a grass farmer rather than a rancher, a view that Farmer Dave at Simple Gifts Farm shares. In fact, Sam first connected with Simple Gifts Farm by interviewing Dave for part of his Hampshire Division III thesis.
In addition to the ranch, Sam worked at the Hampshire College Farm, mainly with their livestock, and on a crew that renovated a 75,000 square foot greenhouse for organic tomato production near Denver. He also travelled through Europe, the Middle East, and Indonesia with a study abroad program visiting intentional communities and eco-villages. Everywhere he went, he was most drawn to the food production aspect of these communities.
At Simple Gifts Farm, Sam is expanding his skill set to vegetable production. He is most excited to learn about soil health, to discern what the soil needs for the plants to do what we want them to do. He also has become much more comfortable using tractors to do a variety of tasks. His main tractor is the John Deere 1010 (our first tractor!) which he uses to apply organic fertilizer with the spinning spreader or side-dresser, and to mow with the brush-hog. Managing the livestock is another role that Sam enjoys here. A couple of afternoons a week, he moves fence to rotate the cows and chickens to new grazing areas. He says, ‘animals make me happy’.
He is also struck by the beauty of the vegetables – a glossy purple eggplant, a Striped German tomato. I think about this later, as I serve up a pile of vivid orange carrots to the gaggle of kids who just harvested them while helping (or is that ‘helping’?) at the farm on this Labor Day. A favorite vegetable is hard to choose, but Sam especially enjoys golden beets (roasted, or grated on a salad) and spinach (in smoothies).
After asking the usual questions about his farming path, I ask Sam if he has anything he’d like to add. He considers, and then says how grateful he is for how Jeremy and Dave hold this place and how they welcome the apprentices as part of the farm. He is glad to get to know the families and communities that tie this farm together (in return, our boys hero-worship the apprentices). It is joy for us, too, to have the chance to be part of our apprentices’ paths, to know their hopes and vision for making a sustainable future for themselves and the communities they build.