“Put your boots on, it could be muddy!” – Erin Hostetler, EEIF Program Coordinator
Homegrown in Charlotte, NC the worst thing in the world was when my mom told me we were going to weed the flower beds (of all things). I could never understand why this had to cut into my coveted Saturday morning playtime. “Put your boots on, it could be muddy!” She’d say.
Once I was full-grown, studying Spanish and Global Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC I thought I was preparing for a career in international development. With graduation nipping at my heels, I started to look at jobs. Requirements for entry level positions: Master’s degree and/or five years of work experience. “Put your boots on, it could be muddy!”
After a year at King’s College of London, eyeballs deep in philosophical examinations of massive global issues like international justice, environmental stewardship, war and conflict, contemporary political theory, human rights, ideological conflict, to name a few. I submitted my dissertation titled, “Climate Change as a Violation of the Human Right to Food” to complete my MA in Global Ethics & Human Values. “Put your boots on, it could be muddy!”
Poised for a career in food policy as an agent of change, I paused and reflected. I feel strongly that there are many people who are agents of change but don’t have a firm grasp of what precisely the issues are. I was not going to be this person. Working on farms seemed a natural first step to understanding the system in which I wanted to create change – food. So, I decided to crank out a few years of let’s call it, “field training.” “Put your boots on, it could be muddy!”
The last 4 years I’ve had my muddy boots on farms of all shapes and sizes. Volunteering on an educational, livestock farm in Central London (pretty wild site), WWOOFing in eastern Iceland, being an Apprenticeship on a 250-member CSA farm in northwestern Pennsylvania, working as an Urban Farm Manager at a non-profit urban farm in Charlotte and learning to make cheese at a goat dairy in Waxhaw. Most recently, I started my own business offering consultations, installations and custom maintenance plans for people wanting to grow food in small spaces on their own.
What did I learn about sustainability through this process? To keep pushing the envelope. To take things one step further, but in constructive and practical ways. To reflect and consider my steps carefully. To try to have a vision for the end goal but more importantly to have “common sense” steps to achieve the end goal.
Common sense is critical component of sustainability. If it doesn’t make sense or isn’t practical then it won’t last. This means that things may not happen as quickly as you want them to but the goals you do achieve will be long lasting and provide a strong foundation to build on. You may have roll up your sleeves, feel comfortable getting dirt under the nails and a little sweat on the brow but that doesn’t hurt.
We learn from the hard work. We remember the callouses and they will make you stronger, more viable and teach you to respect any system within which you work. My chosen systems to work as an agent of change are environmental responsibility and stewardship, the local food system and sustainable, organic agriculture.