The alarm at 5:30 in the morning used to sound very different to me. The initial moments were much the same—peel back the covers, hot shower, don’t forget to floss. But somewhere around the wardrobe decision is where things have gone a bit astray. Where my choice used to systematically be pencil skirts, cardigans, and well-coordinated heels, my approach has suddenly become more cautionary. I now sacrifice denim and flannel to mud and chaos.

By 6:20 I hit the road, much like I used to do before life at Sterling. But this time, my mud boot-clad feet do the pounding. Believe it or not, it’s the same amount of potholes. Coming over the hill is like coming out of New York Penn Station for the very first time, but instead of the overwhelming awe of yellow cabs and commuters bustling about, every day I’m in awe of the valley. You see, the crest of that hill never gets old. Sometimes the morning fog settles just right, as if it were a secret, hiding in between the mountains, desperate to escape the rising sun. A serene calm hangs over the farm, and each part slowly awakens from top to bottom as we make our rounds. There’s just something about feeding a hungry, wanting mouth before feeding your own that sets your spirit at ease. It’s food for the soul—as is most farmers’ work.

There’s the baby chickens, cozy and quiet under their heaters. The sheep, always strategically challenging the integrity of their barriers. The turkeys are dependably loud and seem to gain a pound a day. The rabbits chase themselves dizzy. Stepping into the barn is like stepping into the office before anyone has shown up. Everything is still, and the cats are faithfully perched on their table waiting for breakfast like a deadline from the boss—one that passed an hour ago. And like most deadlines, I keep on walking.

Further down the hill is the most pushy, but the favorite part of my morning routine. Nestled in between the cedars and the pines, three generations of pigs wait excitedly at the edge of their paddock, as if you were bringing gifts, and you can’t get there soon enough. Some mornings they burst out from a thicket of brush, and charge the fields of Hogworld like the beaches of Normandy—and I’m holding the bucket of glory and honor. It is then that I find myself caught somewhere between laughter and panic.

The clock closes in on 7:20, and we gather for a moment in the barn—the office. Sometimes there are jokes, sometimes the day’s tasks are discussed, often talk of our own breakfast. Sometimes we miss 7:20 altogether, thanks to an audacious steer pioneering the next great escape. But one thing that’s for certain is that when 7:30 comes around and we start to climb back up the hill, the “feed” I’ve religiously checked has nothing to do with Twitter—and my blood pumps not for fear of missing the train or a deadline, but rather pumps with a feeling of having finally, gratefully, arrived. •

Elizabeth Chadwick is a graduating senior with a self-designed major in Agricultural Food Studies.

Filed Under: Alumni Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Work

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