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Awesome Stuff

By William Barden, Phase I Fellow

Certain words these days have a way of getting thrown around a lot – sometimes to the point where they so commonplace that they seem to lose their impact. “Awesome” is one of these words that I think about a lot. It means something that inspires great admiration or feelings of majesty, and yet folks (myself included), use it to describe very mundane things - like a tv show or as a casual response - a far cry from something that genuinely fills you with “awe." That being said, I think it’s appropriate to say that the past week and a half at Allegheny Mountain Institute has been “awesome.”

Almost immediately, our team building began unintentionally. On the cold, rainy day of move-in, cars unused to the muddy backroads got stuck over and over again, requiring all these strangers to come together to help each other out of a tight spot. It only continued from there, with a hike to the top of Spruce Knob (the highest point in West Virginia) in the bone-chilling sleet and wind. We were all cold and soaked down to our toes but at least we were together and I had the opportunity to bond a lot with all these wonderful people that I’ll be spending the next 6 months with. And there’s only one word I can accurately describe everyone with: awesome.

The people here aren’t the only thing that have caught my attention. The land itself is, without exaggeration, one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. From steep ridges, open pastures, breath-taking sunrises/sunsets, and the myriad of unique plants whose names are too many to remember. The farm itself was another spectacle to behold- an impressive framework of agricultural efficiency. I don’t know how they make it all work but I’m eager to learn. And, of course, who could forget our shy, equine friend Lightfoot?

I’m aware that the fun is only getting started, but it’s already been such a great experience for myself and I hope for others as well. While it’s true that the goal here is to learn about and grow food, I know I’ve already grown and learned more about myself through this shared experience with others. The hikes, the lessons, the work, the late night jam sessions- I can’t help but be awestruck at how everyone and everything has come together so perfectly in such a short amount of time. As we all continue on this journey together over the next 6 months, I can only hope we’ll continue to give back meaning to the word “awesome.”

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