A Bright Future!

GeerCrest Farm & Historical Society received a $6,000 grant from Willamette University Atkinson Graduate School of Management (AGSM) to further develop its farm-life educational programming. 

Adam and Cayla (in the middle) along with Students from the MBA program. 

Adam and Cayla (in the middle) along with Students from the MBA program. 

GeerCrest Farm will use the funds to expand programs that provide leadership opportunities for local middle and high school students, in mutual support of all currently offered programs. The organization will create a new classroom for traditional craft and skill instruction on wool working, basket weaving, making of herbal medicines, and more.  

“By learning about animal and land care and the use of renewable local resources produced from the land, students also learn vital self-reliance skills that connect them to our collective human history as well as that of local pioneers,” said GeerCrest Farm Director Cayla Catino. 

AGSM graduate students administered the first-year grant program as part of their own experiential learning project. The grant program aims to impact local communities in Marion, Polk, Benton, Linn and Yamhill counties in the areas of education, arts and culture, and green technology. At the same time, graduate students learn how to administer foundation funds.

Other recipients of this year’s AGSM grants include: Bridgeway Recovery Services, Inc., Children’s Educational Theater, Historic Elsinore Theater, Family Building Blocks, Friends of Straub Environmental Center, Marion-Polk Food Share, Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality, Salem Leadership Foundation, The Boys & Girls Club of Salem and Willamette Heritage Center. 

“It was such an honor to be in the room with so many great organizations doing amazing work in the Willamette Valley,” said Adam McKinley, Farm Steward and Education Coordinator at GeerCrest Farm. 

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An Individual Contemplates Community

Guest Blog from Elyce Brown, Silverton Community Member and singer/songwriter

Maybe you love being around other people. Maybe gathering with perfect strangers is your ideal way to spend an evening. Or maybe, and maybe more likely, you're like me. 

I am an introvert. I love to be alone. As an American, I am a product of our individualistic society, and I love the freedom of choice that our society champions. The prospect of Groupthink, a conformity of thought and the abandonment of truly independent inquiry and assessment, which can emerge out of self sorted bands of society, terrifies me. I cherish independence of thought, adhering only to what is true, remaining ever skeptical, and willingly discarding ideas that cannot hold up against questioning. On a much less noble note, when I contemplate joining a group event, my hesitation comes in no small part from the memories of all the stupid things that have escaped my mouth when I was surrounded by people I didn't know well and was awkwardly attempting to be a conversationalist. I spend a lot of time alone. 

Yet, I recognize on a level equally intuitive and analytical, the immense value of joining with others to share space, time, and our brief experience of living. Life has taught me that the things that are most terrifying are often the most necessary. Too much of anything can be harmful. Too much comfort of independence can quickly become isolation, disconnection, and a very inaccurate assessment of yourself, the world, and your place within it. If I was ever feeling terribly exceptional (either at the talented or the deficient end of the spectrum), joining with others in community has always reminded me that my differences are swallowed up in similarities. How much of a self-professed seeker of truth can I really be, if I don't seek out the truth about myself that can only be found in the context of me within a group? Would any scientist claim to understand a wolf by observing it only in isolation? The wolf's behavior within its pack is an inseparable component of the individual. I cannot let fear of the next stupid thing I'm going to hear leaving my lips keep me from learning what that says about me. Besides the inconsistency between isolation and self-knowing, joining with others brings a whole host of benefits and experiences I'm not likely to have while alone: laughing out loud, the warm feeling of being kind, the kinship of connecting over shared fears and loves, just to name a few. 

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But still, I am an American living in America, and opportunities for communal experiences do not abound. We may enjoy going to a restaurant to feel the vibrancy that comes from being surrounded by others, but we are very unlikely to leave the restaurant with more friends than we had going in. Alain de Botton, in his book, Religion for Atheists, points out that, while restaurants may be seen as "refuges from anonymity and coldness, [they] have no systematic mechanisms by which to introduce patrons to one another, to dispel their mutual suspicions, to break up the clans into which people chronically segregate themselves, or to get them to open up their hearts and share their own vulnerabilities with others." De Botton points out ways in which the proximity to strangers required by sharing a meal around a single dinner table, even an act as seemingly inconsequential as asking a stranger to pass the salt, disrupts our ability to cling to an abstraction of "the other." 

Am I overthinking a simple farm to table dinner? Well, not in the moment, at any rate. Because while I am there, seated at the table, learning new names, hearing new voices of laughter, witnessing the unique sparkles in strangers' eyes, enjoying my silent, inner amusement at all of our idiosyncrasies, and being nourished by a meal made with love, I'm simply having a really nice time. 

-Elyce Brown

www.thecryingeyes.com

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Welcoming new goats to the Farm Family!

Eula and her twins in their first days

Eula and her twins in their first days

It's really feeling a bit more like Spring lately, huh?! Well, as you might imagine, we are feeling Spring strongly here -- from the bursting greenhouse of vegetable and herb seedlings, to the faint green of leaves appearing in the trees, to the... oh my! hehe ... the long awaited baby goats in the barn! Over the last few weeks we have welcomed 9 baby goats into the family; two of which came last night, both healthy boys, making the tally 5 bucklings (boys) and 4 doelings (girls) so far, with 3 or 4 more expected by the end of March. 

 

Gloria discovering motherhood -- babies taking their first big drink.

Gloria discovering motherhood -- babies taking their first big drink.

I am so grateful to have the gift of being present to midwife our goats, as every birth is a truly timeless and humbling experience to witness, always a lesson in the powerful wisdom of mothers. The birth last night was of a first-time mother, Gloria. Watching and supporting her through labor, then in the first day of motherhood, it has obviously been a huge rite of passage for her -- a transition that demands focused learning and transformation -- what feels to me a mix of an activation of the creature's innate knowing, integration of modeled behaviors from their mothers aunties and grandmothers, and just plain figuring it out. For the first week after birth we keep the mothers and newborns in their stalls to allow for deeper bonding. Separation from the flock for a week tends to ease the whole process, as the mothers for a while are very concerned whenever they can't see their newborns. So by a week old, when the new goat's legs have developed enough, they are integrated back with the rest of the flock. Currently, the small red barn is our nursery, where the three mothers sleep with the 7 two-week old kids and everyone curiously peeks in on the new mother's stall. A few times in the night, the mothers wake their babes to drink, and of course the kids go into late-night play -- chasing each other or trying to jump on their moms or aunties, before getting woozy and snoozing away again. 

Francis and twins on one of their first outings

Francis and twins on one of their first outings

To ween the little ones from their mothers milk, in stark comparison to a "conventional" dairy, we strive to make the process as gentle as possible. It starts three weeks after birth, when the kids are naturally getting curious about solid food, by taping the mother's teat for a portion of the night. This portion slowly becomes longer until after three months, the kids are fully eating solid food. 

Today I was reminded of a story told to me by one of our beloved board members on his return from backpacking in Tibet. It was an image of a steppe nomad family that he stayed with. The family's cozy black tent of woven Yak-hair protected both the family and their animals from biting winds -- you can imagine a small pit fire in the middle of the tent and toddler Yaks fidgeting next to their cud-chewing but otherwise still mothers. It was in this setting that their host went into labor with few human companions present, and after having a normal birth, she returning not long after to the role of host. For me, this image summons a sense of grace, perseverance, and loving tenacity of motherhood, something I witness in the barn, too, in a goat kind of way. 

Here's to Spring! Wishing you all the tenacity and perseverance of Spring in all your good work in the world. Let's celebrate the strength and beauty of our diversity.

Seed Saving

Seeds, and the saving of seed from the plants we depend on, is a vast subject rooted deep in our human story and evolution as a society. These last few weeks, our mailbox has filled up with seed catalogs. To a present day gardener or farmer, opening a seed catalog can feel like a smorgasbord: exhilarating, overwhelming at times, and somehow nourishing just to look at. The great sense of abundance can be misleading, as we lose hundreds of varieties of vegetables and fruits every year. Few of us know what seeds our great great great grandmothers may have been collecting in their gardens or forests, let alone still keep them. The pressures of modern farming to be profitable has led many farmers to depend on big seed companies to control what varieties “make the cut” (often those that have an appealing and consistent shape and appearance and keep well for transport and marketing), and what varieties are lost (often the most nutrient dense).

Millet drying on the stalks is then brought in and shaken to save each little seed. 

Millet drying on the stalks is then brought in and shaken to save each little seed. 

School Group Students help sort seeds for winter storage

School Group Students help sort seeds for winter storage

Many hands make like work.  Students harvest the tiny Millet Seeds

Many hands make like work.  Students harvest the tiny Millet Seeds

At GeerCrest, we still buy a good portion of our seeds from a few amazing seed companies, passionate about preserving varieties of great diversity, hardiness, flavor and nutrition. However, those lasting relationships we develop with varieties we save seed from year after year provide a deep sense of connection for us and our visiting children, to the past as well as our own responsibility to care for the future. Most every student coming to the farm has the opportunity to relate to some aspect of the cyclic concept of seeds, whether through harvesting seeds of lettuce or millet, planting heirloom beans or squash seeds, or sorting corn kernels, few aspects of farming are so already infused with timeless magic.

In 2016 we were lucky to grow 6 different types of corn, yielding enough that every student coming in 2017 will learn to make (and eat!) fresh tortillas from the jewel-like kernels. Perhaps, next time you sit down to a meal, consider the vast human attention and energy through time that has kept our relationship to those foods alive. 

Variety of Corn drying by the fire

Variety of Corn drying by the fire