By Grant Higginbotham, Farm Fellow
Since arriving at AMI, I have been changing.
Never have I cried so much so often - tears of happiness, of missing home, of gratitude, and of laughter - and never have I pushed myself farther physically - hiking every day, performing farm labor, eating a very green and decidedly pickled diet. I’ve shed so much from my past life while hanging on tighter than ever to other things. I won’t lie and say the pandemic turned me into a necessitated layabout, because I was fortunate enough to work an active pastry chef job and took up regular biking enabling me to maintain a level of physical activity that I had before the pandemic started. Still, I’ve always longed for an opportunity to grow like I have on the mountain. The decision to leave my partner and other loved ones was both very easy and very difficult - as most instinctive life decisions are. I knew I had to come here now at this time but it meant leaving behind a shelter of love and security I had built up over years. It was a challenge I felt called to accept.
This place is a pressure chamber for exponential growth. To see the rate at which the grass, the flowers, and the vegetables grow is humbling. To see the size of birds and critters, which in the city compete for food and space and so are smaller than their wild cousins, makes me grateful for these wide open expanses where I too can escape the realities of urban living. More than physical growth however, emotional growth is what I feel most potently up here. To share such a beautiful home and unique experience as this with 9 other Fellows and our lovely mentors has taught me so much about change. I share a single room cabin with three other people and shockingly, it doesn’t bother me! Most days, I have no say in what I eat, and as a professional chef who loves to feed themselves and others, you’d think it would be difficult and yet, it isn’t. I marvel at the ability of the people and the wildlife around me to work in collaboration with each other to provide sustenance and support. My heart sings when someone brings lunch down to the farm after a grueling morning in the sun and I devour meals without hesitation, whereas I might’ve struggled to even eat two meals a day once upon a time. In just two months, it feels like I’ve lived a lifetime up here - time is relative and change is constant.
We’re all here to make change, too. We live in a small intentional community, isolated on a mountaintop for six months, and it is easy to feel disconnected to the outside world. It’s easy to think that our words and actions reverberate only as far as the end of Clay Hise road, but our work is providing food each and every day for the people of Highland County, and that is no small feat. Every day that we toil in the soil, read our books, feed each other, and share in discussions about food justice and food sovereignty, we shift ourselves towards impacting change and providing for a world deeply at risk. The potential energy is enormous and we can all feel it. I love to feed, entertain, and commune with people and that’s what I’ve done professionally for years. But to teach my own community to do the same for themselves and for their loved ones is my passion. I look forward to that day but for now I shall gladly continue to kneel in the sun, fingers in the dirt, listening to the birds and awaiting the hum of a vehicle signaling the arrival of lunch on the farm.