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We won’t get lost, but we won’t know exactly where we are

By Alex Youssef, Farm Fellow

Here is a list of items in my day pack on Day 1 of Allegheny Mountain Institute’s Farm and Food System Fellowship:

1. Notebook

2. Various pens

3. Water bottle

4. Granola bar

Although so much about this mountain and the life I get to live on it is magical, mystical, and even mythical, some things about it are just practical. Or at least, require practical solutions.

Is the sunrise beautiful through the mist and over the newly spring-green forest? Yes, absolutely it is.

But every moment isn’t a sunrise. Sometimes it's emptying a compost toilet bucket or deciding what hiking boots are waterproof enough for the four inches of rain we’re getting today or whether or not the Fellows who cooked the night before used up all of the potatoes that your lunch recipe heavily relies on. It's logistics and organization and planning.

Day by day, almost every day of orientation on the mountain, I added something else I needed to my day pack. Each day's learning of new skills or concepts made me realize that there was an item that could make my day and my work easier or more efficient. So it went in the pack.

There is a metaphor in here, I know. Something about picking up new tools for our proverbial toolbox to guide us through the kind of learning that we’ll be doing here at AMI.

Our esteemed Fellowship Director, Jessa, said during an off-trail hike on the mountain, “We won’t get lost, but we won’t know exactly where we are.” I think that as we accumulate our items and learn, we will get further and further from lost, and closer to having all the tools, literally and figuratively, to do this work.

And with that thought, here is an updated list of things I now keep in my day pack:

1. Notebook

2. Various pens

3. Water bottle

4. Headlamp

5. Rain jacket

6. Extra socks

7. Extra underwear (you never know!)

8. Sunscreen

9. CPR mask

10. Bandana

11. Dad hat

12. Beanie

13. Lip balm

14. Work gloves

15. Harvest knife

16. Pruning shears

17. Earplugs

18. Sunglasses

19. Granola bar

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