Why I Grow

Susan Sharp Farm Grow Northern Michigan

Why I Grow

This is a popular question these days, but an important one. When I’ve read others’ replies, it made me analyze my motivation. I’ve narrowed it down to three reasons.

Cultivating Curiosity

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” Mary Oliver

I’ve always been a watcher of things- always curious about the natural world I observed around me. These memories are the first I can remember: Why do birds return to the same locations? How do they know when to leave? Why do plants flower around the same time each year, despite the weather (yes, I documented this in elementary school). My list of questions was endless and I’m sure I drove my parents crazy. I was, and still am, endlessly fascinated by the natural world. As it turns out, the more I learn about farming, the less I know… Growing things is a gift and it intrigues me, consumes me, drives me, and fulfills me…

Cultivating Connection

“I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attach me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus. But why should I raise them? Only heaven knows. This was my curious labor all summer… what shall I learn of beans or beans of me ? I cherish them, I hoe them, early and late. I have an eye to them, and this is my day’s work. It is a fine broad leaf to look on.” – H. D. Thoreau, Walden

When we bought this farm a few years ago, it was a fallow old hay field with impoverished soil. Everything about the place exuded neglect. It seemed sad and almost haunted to me. We’ve worked tirelessly to turn this place into a working farm again. What a privilege it is to build and nourish the soil, attract pollinators through native plantings, encourage wildlife, increase diversity and act as stewards of this little postage-stamp size piece of land. If everyone loved their land like this, imagine how different the world might be. It’s the best form of activism I know.

Cultivating Community

“And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.” – Wendell Berry

In my early years – a former life, really – I wanted to travel everywhere and see everything. I thought of community only in global terms. The aging process, a good husband, and a solo trip to Bhutan with only The Tibetan Book of the Dead to keep me company changed that trajectory. I began to set down roots and look around me, realizing there was much to be done here and time seemed to be accelerating.

Buying this farm was so grounding. Each day there’s an endless list of chores, each day, a chance to experience the natural world and observe the change of seasons, each day, the opportunity to cultivate and grow and care for this land. Each day here, my roots grow a little deeper. We are privileged to be able to grow food and flowers for those in our community, who have set down their own roots around us.

Food and beauty nourish both body and soul; they connect us in very real ways. Producing food and flowers allows us to care for the people around us – family, friends and neighbors. The time and effort it takes to grow is a gift we offer to our community. For an introvert with a low EQ, like me, it’s the perfect way to say I care without having to say much at all!