I'm deviating from my usual updates about Anchored Roots Farm to tell you about my recent trip to Poland to study agriculture.
In July, I had the unique opportunity to take a break from the farm (what! yes!) and venture to Poland to study agriculture for 12 days. I learned more than I could have imagined and I plan to implement much of it back here on my farm in Maryland.
To give you a quick background, I did this trip with The LEAD Maryland Foundation, as part of the international study tour of a 2 year fellowship program I joined along with 23 other leaders from around the state of Maryland who work in agriculture, natural resources, or rural community development positions. It has been an honor to be selected for the program, and with the financial assistance of SMADC, I was able to join my classmates abroad for the trip of a lifetime. Not only did I learn a great deal from the people of Poland, but I also learned a lot from the fellows I traveled with. It only took 12 days of traveling in a foreign country, in a pack, in the heat of summer, with limited AC and no ice, to learn to have big love for this group, and I wouldn't have had it any other way :)
On my trip to Poland to study agriculture, natural resources, rural communities and leadership, I took away three important things. I plan to do a better job of these three things in my role back home, and share them so that others may share ideas, or take and implement them in their respective roles too.
The first is the importance of voting and being more present during election seasons. I say this beacuse though we were there to study agriculture, the underlying current in Poland is still very much their system of government. And as we all know, agriculutre is tied to politics not matter how you slic eit. I am fairly aware of local and federal politics now, but sometimes I stray and feel overwhelmed by them. But being in Poland, I realized just how much I took for granted the system of government I am lucky enough to have grown up in- for the people, by the people. In talking with elected officials, farmers, and the people in Poland about our system of government, I realize how much we set an example for other countries. Countries like Poland who are just beginning to move from communism to the vastly different structure of democracy.
Every vote counts is now a possibility in Poland, and it's important for us make time and be present in our local, state, and national elections. Though not perfect, we are fortunate to live in a system that allows the people the power. It was an important reminder for me to see at Auschwitz and feel in the culture of Polish people we met. Though I was wary of visiting Auschwitz, it was a necessary reminder that as leaders we have to face and remember the hard things, and make every effort not to allow them to be repeated. Picture.
Second, in the US we believe everything bigger is better. On this trip I got so excited seeing small scale tractors and implements and creative ways to manage your farm without the "fluff". Like adding a cart to the back of your car when you need it instead of driving an oversized truck around even when you don’t. Recognizing efficiently vs. luxury, and the impact our luxuries have on the environment. We use too much plastic in the US. In Poland, and as I’ve experienced in other parts of Europe, they didn’t regularly use to-go cups at breakfast or throw away plates during meals on the farm.
I am going to do a better job of using less plastic. I recognized that these products are greatly influenced from being in a hurry and too busy. A good reminder not to always grab a coffee to go, but to actually sit and drink from a mug. And then to wash that mug and use it again, instead of throwing it in the landfill. And I’ve wanted to move past using the plastic we lay as beds under our crops for weed control (see * below for more information) for some time now, but I’ve never made an intentional effort to come up with a better solution. So here is my pledge to work on a better solution to using plastic lined beds in our fields.
And hospitality was also shown in vodka shots. I kid you not, almost every farm tour included a homemade vodka shot of appreciation (see recipe below). Comment below if you think I should add these to Anchored Roots Farm tours ;)
Third, the humbleness and gratitude of Polish people is on another level even to many other cultures I’ve experienced. We may be an example to them in our system of government/military, but they are an example to us of tenacity, strength, and hospitality. A reminder that despite the odds, we are all capable of overcoming any situation by helping each other out and always showing love. Departing, one of our translator said something to the effect of: "it’s never goodbye, we should greet as though we just met yesterday and we’ll see each other tomorrow." While visiting Poland, we didn’t need to speak the same language to feel the gratitude in the air among our new friends.
Fresh flowers were available on every street corner around the country, and used as a sign of hospitality when visiting peoples homes, as well as love between couples walking down the street with a single flower or wrapped bouquet.
From this trip I learned so much, and will use it to grow my work, the ecological life of my farm, and within my community.
*for those not familiar with the black plastic method mentioned above, it is made of a none renewable resource that is only used on one round of crops before its pulled up and thrown in the trash because it cannot decompose or be recycled for other uses.*
Flowers in bloom in Poland (late July)
- Still figuring out the top pink one
- Tanzi (Wrotycz in Polish)
- Still figuring out the orange one but Poland friends said: Mountain ash/rowanberry/servicetree/quicken
- Double Rubeckia
(recipe for homemade Polish Vodka)
5 liters vodka
4 liters water
2 jars of honey
6.5 kg fresh squeezed lemons
Bottle and let sit for 2 days
Read more about our trip here (Delmarva Farmer article)
View all my photos (especially of the flower markets) with detailed captions here.