Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Reflections on the 2015 EcoFarm Conference

The EcoFarm Conference is a revered winter tradition for thousands of farmers—one of few good excuses to leave the lonely farm behind and join the larger community of allies in sustainable agriculture. This year’s conference, in January 2015, marked EcoFarm’s 35th year of bringing together farmers, ranchers, educators, researchers, and other food system stakeholders for education, networking and celebration.

With spring around the corner and a handful of new apprentices arriving shortly, it’s never easy to leave the mountain of tasks in the Esalen Farm and Garden for a few days of conference attendance, but we never regret it. EcoFarm always delivers in inspiration, renewal and connection to charge us up for another season of growing good food and people at Esalen.

With workshops ranging in topics from the veteran farmer movement, to the emergent organic Chinese herb market, to native food sovereignty, EcoFarm exposed our crew members to some fascinating and inspiring manifestations of sustainable agriculture. Here we share what touched each of us most.

Anna Pierce-Slive, Garden Supervisor
“The most touching moment for me at EcoFarm was witnessing the panel of speakers from the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a network of veterans who are transforming their lives through growing plants. Many veterans spoke of the healing potential of working in agriculture—shifting from modes of destruction and violence in combat (and often living with PTSD) to tending for the land and the people on it in a nurturing way. Several of our Farm and Garden crew members attended the veterans’ session, likely because our experience of Relational Agriculture at Esalen affirms the healing potential of being with the soil, the crops and each other.

Witnessing people share how agriculture has changed their lives re-sparked my deepest motivation for my job; striving to simultaneously do the best by the land while working with our human wounds towards wholeness.”

Landon Berger, Apprentice
“I was excited to attend a workshop about growing organic Chinese herbs in the United States. The expanding use of herbal medicine has greatly increased U.S. consumption of traditional Chinese herbs. Yet shockingly, one speaker had tested Chinese herbs from herb pharmacies throughout the United States and found dangerous levels of pesticides, heavy metals and human pathogens in them—making organic chinese herbs a potentially exciting new market.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the nightlife - including social hours for beginning farmers and dances. EcoFarm was a great place to meet people and network. Everyone knows farmers work hard, but it turns out they know how to have a good time too!”

Noël Vietor, Education Program Coordinator
“I was incredibly moved by a workshop about ‘Food Sovereignty in Tribal Communities’. Having been forced to assimilate into Western culture and industrialized foods over the last century, American Indian communities today have the highest prevalence (16%) of diabetes among U.S. racial and ethnic groups. Going back to pre-colonial self-sufficiency isn’t easy: many native foods and crops are now endangered or extinct, inaccessible to Indian communities due to land loss, or the traditional knowledge of how to grow or utilize them has been greatly diminished. [This is not just a native problem: as industrialized monoculture swallows our food system and concentrates on a very small number of crop varieties, global food security becomes a major issue.]

Some great organizations such as the The Cultural Conservancy are working to restore the health and well-being of native communities by increasing direct access to healthy food (via partnerships with local farms), reintroducing traditional, biodiverse food ways, and promoting indigenous land stewardship practices.

We as modern organic farmers have so much to learn from indigenous models of agriculture and kinship with the environment. This EcoFarm workshop reminded me what a profound honor it is to grow and share food on land that was stewarded by the Esselen people for over 6,000 years. Now I’m looking for ways that Esalen can support this important legacy and movement in return: growing more indigenous cultivars, saving biodiverse seeds, and promoting dialogue about these issues.”

Thomas Strickland, Farm Supervisor
“I walked away from two EcoFarm workshops feeling particularly inspired and stimulated: ‘Soil Fertility for Organic Vineyards and Orchards,’ and surprisingly, ‘Record-Keeping to Achieve Personal and Financial Goals.’ The soil fertility class has me thinking about how I can better respond to our annual soil tests at Esalen, maximizing the availability of fertility already in the field and applying compost more accurately. The record keeping class has me fired up about evaluating our systems in the Farm and Garden so that we can implement appropriate strategies in the coming months and years to meet our own personal, financial and community wide goals.”

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Reflections on the 2015 EcoFarm Conference

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

The EcoFarm Conference is a revered winter tradition for thousands of farmers—one of few good excuses to leave the lonely farm behind and join the larger community of allies in sustainable agriculture. This year’s conference, in January 2015, marked EcoFarm’s 35th year of bringing together farmers, ranchers, educators, researchers, and other food system stakeholders for education, networking and celebration.

With spring around the corner and a handful of new apprentices arriving shortly, it’s never easy to leave the mountain of tasks in the Esalen Farm and Garden for a few days of conference attendance, but we never regret it. EcoFarm always delivers in inspiration, renewal and connection to charge us up for another season of growing good food and people at Esalen.

With workshops ranging in topics from the veteran farmer movement, to the emergent organic Chinese herb market, to native food sovereignty, EcoFarm exposed our crew members to some fascinating and inspiring manifestations of sustainable agriculture. Here we share what touched each of us most.

Anna Pierce-Slive, Garden Supervisor
“The most touching moment for me at EcoFarm was witnessing the panel of speakers from the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a network of veterans who are transforming their lives through growing plants. Many veterans spoke of the healing potential of working in agriculture—shifting from modes of destruction and violence in combat (and often living with PTSD) to tending for the land and the people on it in a nurturing way. Several of our Farm and Garden crew members attended the veterans’ session, likely because our experience of Relational Agriculture at Esalen affirms the healing potential of being with the soil, the crops and each other.

Witnessing people share how agriculture has changed their lives re-sparked my deepest motivation for my job; striving to simultaneously do the best by the land while working with our human wounds towards wholeness.”

Landon Berger, Apprentice
“I was excited to attend a workshop about growing organic Chinese herbs in the United States. The expanding use of herbal medicine has greatly increased U.S. consumption of traditional Chinese herbs. Yet shockingly, one speaker had tested Chinese herbs from herb pharmacies throughout the United States and found dangerous levels of pesticides, heavy metals and human pathogens in them—making organic chinese herbs a potentially exciting new market.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the nightlife - including social hours for beginning farmers and dances. EcoFarm was a great place to meet people and network. Everyone knows farmers work hard, but it turns out they know how to have a good time too!”

Noël Vietor, Education Program Coordinator
“I was incredibly moved by a workshop about ‘Food Sovereignty in Tribal Communities’. Having been forced to assimilate into Western culture and industrialized foods over the last century, American Indian communities today have the highest prevalence (16%) of diabetes among U.S. racial and ethnic groups. Going back to pre-colonial self-sufficiency isn’t easy: many native foods and crops are now endangered or extinct, inaccessible to Indian communities due to land loss, or the traditional knowledge of how to grow or utilize them has been greatly diminished. [This is not just a native problem: as industrialized monoculture swallows our food system and concentrates on a very small number of crop varieties, global food security becomes a major issue.]

Some great organizations such as the The Cultural Conservancy are working to restore the health and well-being of native communities by increasing direct access to healthy food (via partnerships with local farms), reintroducing traditional, biodiverse food ways, and promoting indigenous land stewardship practices.

We as modern organic farmers have so much to learn from indigenous models of agriculture and kinship with the environment. This EcoFarm workshop reminded me what a profound honor it is to grow and share food on land that was stewarded by the Esselen people for over 6,000 years. Now I’m looking for ways that Esalen can support this important legacy and movement in return: growing more indigenous cultivars, saving biodiverse seeds, and promoting dialogue about these issues.”

Thomas Strickland, Farm Supervisor
“I walked away from two EcoFarm workshops feeling particularly inspired and stimulated: ‘Soil Fertility for Organic Vineyards and Orchards,’ and surprisingly, ‘Record-Keeping to Achieve Personal and Financial Goals.’ The soil fertility class has me thinking about how I can better respond to our annual soil tests at Esalen, maximizing the availability of fertility already in the field and applying compost more accurately. The record keeping class has me fired up about evaluating our systems in the Farm and Garden so that we can implement appropriate strategies in the coming months and years to meet our own personal, financial and community wide goals.”

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

//