9 minute read
written by: Curtis
It wasn’t always called the Victory Garden, but for as long as I can remember, there has been a garden in my life. At my grandparents there were flowers, at our house there were veggies, in the clear cuts there were endless canes of berries.
Curtis' childhood home and family garden
I named our family veggie garden the Victory Garden during a summer break while studying geology at Union College. I don’t recall where, but I had learned about the “coming together over gardening” movements at-home and abroad during wartime - dubbed Victory Gardens. Combined with my readings on permaculture and organic farming, college life and classwork, it was part of my first understanding on the power of food and farming.
During the initial phase of the COVID-19 outbreak, the concept of Victory Gardens came to light immediately as seed companies quickly became overwhelmed with orders and home gardeners skipped their cut flowers in favor of vegetables. Even my parents were invigorated to take to the family garden and plant rows of beans, carrots, tomatoes, and sunflowers.
In the garden, fears of the pandemic slip away and new memories are made. I hope to see my family, and all the other folks who took to their gardens in 2020, continue their pursuits and strengthen their connection to food in years to come. Spurred not by fear of the unknown, but in support of a more resilient and healthy home.
"In the garden, fears of the pandemic slip away and new memories are made. I hope to see my family, and all the other folks who took to their gardens in 2020, continue their pursuits and strengthen their connection to food in years to come. "
Farming was never a career I thought of as a child. Gardening and fondness for the natural world has always been there, but I never considered farming as a path. Thanks to Hard Hat Harry, I have always been fascinated with big equipment and systems that shape our world.
I come from a family of builders and small business owners in a sleepy, rural, Adirondack town. Growing up on a jobsite, I was free to express creativity and the material & natural world were my entertainment. Probably part hassle and part entertainment, I remember playing in the scrap piles, sweeping up jobs, and endless trips to supply stores. Heck, I thought they named me Curtis after Curtis Lumber, our local lumber yard!
Curtis with sister Caitlyn, both covered in wild blackberries!
Before I was old enough to legally work, my father had me help him mix cement, carry stones, and “help” on his job. I probably wasn’t a ton of help, prompting my father to suggest that if I didn’t like mixing cement, I could get a job when I was old enough. Further, if I didn’t like having a manual job, I’d need to get an education. While farming is as full of manual labor as my family's work, at 12 or 13 my dad’s message was loud and clear.
With endless bags of cement mixing awaiting my fate, I got a job my first summer of age for a small tourism business that operated a cave attraction and rock shop. For seven summers, I grew a toolbox of personal and business skills, and fell hard for geology, our planet, and mother nature. Beyond the practical handy trades work and critical thinking skills I gained, I learned the basics of customer interaction, sales, product promotion, and the many people skills it takes to run a business.
There was a strong entrepreneurial atmosphere at the Caves, from the owners’ spirit and positive, open-heartedness, to the actual work of sales and customer service. I remember well the wide range of functions and tasks that needed to happen and be in order for things to run smoothly. They relied on well traubed Great service, cleanliness, well-stocked shelves, smiles, and zero cigarette butts! were just a few of many keys for success at the Caves!
I’m forever grateful for the honesty, empathy, and fun that I experienced those years. My love for the rocks, minerals, and geology that surrounded me rubbed off enough to send me to college to pursue these passions.
Union College is a private liberal arts college steeped in tradition with strong academics, programs, and campus activities. Like many, college was a period of personal growth, expansion of opportunity, and social development. I became a member of the Alpha of New York, Sigma Phi Society, where my understanding of the world brightened. Beyond the historical connections, Sigma Phi gave me a vocabulary, social perspective, and a toolkit beyond anything taught in classrooms. I discovered and developed cooperation, connection, trust, respect, wit, commitment, and many other positive attributes during this period.
Beyond social life, a benefit of Union was the pursuit of liberal arts. To fulfill my non-major coursework, I pursued my interests in entrepreneurship and visual art through several classes and practicums. These other disciplines temporarily itched my very needy creative side. The diversity of the education and the student body taught me that inclusivity, open-mindedness, and hard-work act in synergy.
Most importantly of all, Union was where I found my dear love, Meghan. We unknowingly sowed the seeds of this journey way back then while abroad in Australia. Our talk of food connection has led us to create Vibrant Farm to meet the needs of ourselves, our employees, and our community.
"Our talk of food connection has led us to create Vibrant Farm to meet the needs of ourselves, our employees, and our community. "
Meghan and I are excited to continue sharing our journey to becoming agricultural entrepreneurs, land stewards, and lovers!