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The good and beautiful earth.

Fall crops at the UC Davis Market Garden 10-30-16.

The Lit-Farm Project is an outdoor education program dedicated to supporting students of all ages by providing hands-on sustainable agriculture experience integrated with opportunities for the appreciation of quality literature.

Background: In September I graduated from the California Farm Academy, an 8 month intensive training program based in Winters.

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Here is our 2016 class and motley farm crew.

Photo: Juan Silva

 

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And here is our wonderful graduation ceremony at the capitol in September.

Photo: Nina Suzuki

In between were amazing farm field trips, interesting and relevant farm lectures, workshops and classes, and a great deal of farm work (rain or shine and even when it was 107 degrees one summer day) at the Center for Land Based Learning’s farm.

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Here is our incomparable Maureen Thompson who made it all happen in such an amazing way with lots of help and contributions from the CLBL team and the extended family of mentor farmers. To all thank you, thank you!

Photo: Juan Silva

Oh yes and there were tractors! And we got to drive them! Many thanks to professor Mir Shafii and his incredible UC Davis student employees who showed us the ropes, I mean the implements. This class was truly a highlight for all of us.

 

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Photo: Juan Silva

Now back to working the three jobs and trying to figure out what is next. Novel news update: an agent requested the full manuscript and is reading it.

On the agriculture front: everyone who graduates from the Farm Academy has to write a business plan and have it reviewed by a panel of farmers and other professionals. My plan was focused on a one quarter acre, first year start-up annual flower farm. If all goes well then I would like to expand the second year to include herbs, strawberries and perennial flowers. In the third year I plan to add greens for the floral industry and hopefully pomegranates and figs. I am really excited about the possibilities and am in the process of working out the where and when. Which brings me to the Lit-Farm project.

Way-back background

The Lit-Farm project technically began in 1969 in my 8th grade English class when we read The Good Earth, Pearl Buck’s 1931 novel of life in Pre-revolutionary China.

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I bought a copy last year to see why it had stayed with me as a remembered important influence and to see if it had had anything to do with my current interest in agriculture. Answer: yes!

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It is still the good and beautiful earth.

Fennel, red cabbage and (my dear) pollinator flowers: lupine, poppies and larkspur at the UC Davis Student Farm Market Garden 5-16-16.

When I was in college and in my 20’s I left horticulture and went into English. When I was older I left English to return to horticulture and agriculture. And now I am trying to figure out how to blend these two worlds. The common denominator throughout the years for me has been education whether teaching at summer camps, teaching in the public schools, or teaching farm skills.

I believe there has to be a way to use education to help students understand the elemental importance of the good earth, provide an opportunity for them to learn how to grow their own food, and expand their appreciation of how quality literature plays into the essential themes of our daily lives. All in one place. In other words: a Lit-Farm Project.

Many thanks to both B.H. James and Elizabeth James for their outstanding book Method to the Madness: a Common Core Guide to Creating Critical Thinkers Through the Study of Literature which inspired me to find a name for my vision and an increased sense of determination to try to make it happen. Their energy and enthusiasm are very refreshing and so very needed!

Finally, special appreciation to the Stockton high school students who contributed such insightful literary essays to the book. Hats off to you and keep up the great work.