Bom dia from Portugal!
Today marks the second month of being in a different country. 59 days of farming are coming to a close, and for the next 30 days I will be absorbing as much of Spain and Morocco as possible (and finally fleeing back to the United States before my 90 days without a visa expires). It seems rather comical that I am finally writing this brief check-in from a packed bus en route from Lisbon to Coimbra, given the ample opportunities for reflection I have had during non-work hours. I have taken a semester off from Colorado College and writing for Colorado Collective to submerge myself in the European farming community and learn what sustainable agriculture looks like for other countries.
Self-indulgence aside, the past two months have gone by faster than I could ever have imagined. During my stay I have worked on three farms; each farm in a different location with a different climate, accommodation, number of volunteers, work schedule, belief, practice, method and more. Portugal itself — depending on the region — seems to have pleasant farming conditions, from my experience. Although some years are wetter or drier, and the farming is by no means easy (is it ever?), most farms have had consistently well-established agriculture. I have been exposed to work with various animals, plants, and herbs, as well as other farm work, including but not limited to: welding a greenhouse, building a fence, sanding bird houses, pruning trees, cooking meals, restoring an old farmhouse, retrofitting a workshop, planting seedlings and propagating, and leveling raised beds for future crops.
With my life as a farmer coming to an end, for the time being, I can now say several things. First, it has been time well spent. Exposure to a real-world classroom, with all its oddities and intricacies, has taught me more than a book on permaculture or farming ever could: I have dirt under my fingernails, rather than paper cuts and a mild headache, from getting out there and just trying it. Second, this trip has reaffirmed my passion for sustainable agriculture and self-reliance. I have developed a deeper respect for small things I might not have appreciated before I left. The time, energy, sweat, rain, wind, sun and other factors that go into an apple or a pine nut can't be accounted for on a price tag.
Finally, for the sake of brevity, meeting different people — from many different nationalities, each with their own languages and customs — has given me, knowingly or unknowingly, a unique look into the spectacular phenomenon that occurs when like-minded people come together. Dreams are reached, knowledge is passed on, and — speaking for myself — a hell of a lot of growing (pun not intended) happens.