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What Our Apprentices Have To Say

2017 Apprentices

Tim Metcalf

I am a first-year apprentice from the local town of Columbia, NJ.  From an early age, I have always been enamored with the beauty of the natural world, and the art of farming has drawn me closer to this passion. When I am not busy surrounding myself with the greatness of nature and the community at the CSG, I am usually concentrating on my second passion in life, which is art. I have found that one of the best fertilizers for my artwork is being connected to the natural world and the deep complexities that it has to offer. The community at the CSG has further cultivated my artistic mind and soul and I am deeply grateful for the beautiful people that make it such a wonderful place to work, reside, and grow.

Gerald Marshall

I’m thankful for the love.

I think it’s an important gesture to accommodate “for the deep earth,” lol just kidding for the anomalous. It’s significantly harder than the easier route of ostracizing, so for Genesis community being able to be untraditional and do that efficiently I commend the tradition.

We all don’t have to grow up, some of us grow out like bushes. We don’t all have to be trees. We branch out while others grow tall, strong and protect, while some provide fruit to drop at ground level.

Jen Maidrand

I come from Elk Grove, CA, just outside the city of Sacramento in northern California. I have been in New Jersey just over a year doing a Master’s Program in Religion and Ecology at Drew Theological School. I joined the apprenticeship team planning to be at Genesis for just the summer, but have since become quite taken with this community and land. I am incredibly grateful to work part-time at the farm while going to school (so you can find me around the CSG on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays). I adore kale, peaches, butternut squash, arugula, and corn (my spirit crop this season). Cucumbers, my other crop, are a different story; my patience was definitely tried with the thousands I was harvesting each week during this rain-abundant season. Being an apprentice here has surely challenged my ability to be mindful of and attentive to the small details of crops. The critical and constant observation and care that each crop requires differently has taught me to interact with plants and the world around me with heightened awareness. And this of course comes full circle in my studies, having experienced in the field what I hope to bring about in academic and faith communities.

So to all of you reading this, thank you. Your work and lives have made this community what it is, and for that I am immensely thankful.

Caitlin Cummings

I’m from Greenbelt, Maryland. This is my first full year of farming, after a three-month stint at a farm in Chicago. I majored in computer science in college, but decided it wasn’t for me and I’m exploring other options. I’ve really enjoyed my time at the CSG and I’m going to look for another farming internship next year to further expand on all that I have learned here. My favorite parts have been spending all day in the fresh air, trying new foods, and having the opportunity to meet, work, and live with all my fellow apprentices and instructors.

McKenna 2016

Let’s be honest, it is very easy to romanticize farming…we’ve all done it at one time or another.  But until you actually complete a season, there are a few things you should probably know.  You will get wet.  You will be cold.  You will get dirty.  You will sweat.  You will be hand weeding for long hours in unmerciful weather.  You will be bending and lifting, and bending and lifting.  And your body will ache in new and unfamiliar ways.  Did I say you will get hot?  The list goes on, but these unpleasantries are all part of the daily realities of farming: it is indeed hard work.  I know, bummer.  But it is also such rewarding, meaningful, humbling, and necessary work as well.  And there is light at the end of the tunnel so to speak, sweet bouts of magic and pure beauty mixed in there as well.

At the CSG at Genesis Farm, you will be grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Judy, Mike, Smadar, Gina and Hannah. Individually they bring to the land unique personalities, skills, and backgrounds, yet together they are a force to be reckoned with. You will not only be a better person for knowing them, but will not be able to imagine your life without them in it.

At the CSG at Genesis Farm, you will fall in love with this community of amazing human beings who will open up their hearts and their doors and invite you inside. They will share a bit of their lives with you while working together in the fields or perhaps, if you are lucky, even over a home cooked meal. At the CSG at Genesis Farm, you will relish in the beauty of the Earth as a cool breeze tickles the back of your neck on a hazy, hot afternoon, or when the leaves over the pond change from green to yellow to burnt orange and deep dark ruby red.  At the CSG at Genesis Farm, you will tap into this whole new side of yourself and the interconnectedness that exists between you and the soil. You will bear witness to living through the seasons from start to finish. To see the sun rising and falling, the crops growing and dying. The beauty of it all.

In other words, the CSG at Genesis Farm will ruin your life in the best kind of way.  You will never be the same again.  You will only wish it could last longer.  You will understand why farming can be romantic, as you have seen it and felt it on good days and on bad.  This I know for sure, and if you are lucky, you will too.

IMG_2340 Kelly 2014 & 2015

The CSG at Genesis Farm is truly an extraordinary place and I feel so blessed to have spent two amazing seasons there. Without a doubt there are challenges to working at Genesis Farm. There are long, hot days. There are wet feet, sore backs and bleeding hands. I was far away from my family and sometimes felt isolated. Sometimes the field walks are so overwhelming it seems like we can’t possibly get it all done, and honestly, sometimes we don’t. Nevertheless, what does happen is quite incredible. It is both challenging and wonderful and I still find myself surprised by the things I learned during my time as an apprentice, not just about growing the best food (which I certainly did), but about myself, where my strength lies and what I’m capable of. And I got to do it all while being surrounded by some of the most supportive, encouraging, hard working and fun loving people. The crew is fantastic; Judy, Mike and Smadar are knowledgeable mentors and the community as a whole is just very, very special. I can’t fully express the gratitude I feel to be part of this family, no matter how far away I am.

My bit of advice to anyone wanting to apprentice here is to really commit, be present everyday, get involved and allow yourself to care about the people, the food and the land. Do this and I believe you will be rewarded immeasurably.

Bill BrophyBill 2013

The CSG at Genesis Farm provided me with many opportunities that I am very thankful for, and have already proven very useful.  Just today before writing this I seeded 1,000 plants, preparing for the next journey in my life, managing an organic vegetable garden starting this week.  I would not be where I am today if I had not met who I met and learned what I leaned at Genesis Farm.  Mike, Judy, and Smadar warmly welcomed me on board as a volunteer in 2011 and then again as a full time apprentice this past summer 2013.  Both experiences I had at the CSG were eye opening to the reality of what it takes to produce food here.  I learned a broad spectrum of vegetable garden/farm skills from efficient weeding and harvesting to proper implement usage.  The list of skills related to gardening that can be acquired from an apprenticeship at the CSG is too long to write.  Also I always felt very proud of the work I did at the CSG because I feel that this form of sustainable food production is very important today, and no one does it better than the CSG at Genesis Farm.

 hotpepJimmy1James 2012

My experience as an apprentice at the Community Supported Garden at Genesis Farm exceeded all my greatest expectations and I strongly recommend this program for any first, second, or third year apprentices! From day one, your opinion is valued and you are submersed in all tasks of the farm, from bed preparation to sowing to harvest and distribution. The CSG team maintains an optimal learning environment by allowing apprentices to take on great responsibilities, and more importantly as so eloquently expressed by Kait Crowley, a fellow apprentice, by allowing “the privacy necessary to make and learn from your mistakes.” In addition, communication is a top priority at the CSG. Judy, Mike and Smadar are very approachable and make sure that all apprentices understand why the task at hand is carried out and how it fits into the big picture of the farm & community. You quickly realize how important effective communication is to the well-being of the farm organism as you are living and working with a small team day in and day out. Finally, it is important to mention the community from which the CSG was born. As an apprentice you are instantly accepted into the CSG family which includes, the gardeners & regular volunteers, the farm children, the wonderful board members, the 200+ general members, the Genesis Farm family, other local farms, the local health food store, restaurants and activist groups in the local community. Everyyone is welcomed whole-heartedly into this community and can expect to build some of the strongest relationships they will ever have.

As for farming, although I feel confident that the CSG apprenticeship program has provided me the skills and knowledge necessary to start a small farm of my own, the gardeners would probably strongly encourage anyone to apprentice for a few years before going off on their own, especially when it comes to accepting the level of responsibility inherent of running a CSA.

samIamSam 2012

I came to the CSG in March 2012, without much experience of agriculture, but with the deep sense that I needed to be here, at this time in my life. I can only express gratitude to Judy, Smadar and Mike for welcoming me into the life of the farm they have helped to create. I have learned something of how to work well—to wake up again in the morning, for example, and try to do a job right, so that we can take pride in the results, even though I am tired and overwhelmed by the accumulated mental and physical stress of farm work at the height of the season. The rewards of the work have always outweighed its costs. I am so grateful to be close to things that are growing; it grounds me and gives me sanity. After a year of this labor, knowing something of farming, enough to realize how little I know, I can begin to measure the gift Judy, Mike and Smadar have given to the apprentices, members, and all others touched by the farm over the years. They are the ones who have chosen to stay, and commit their lives to this most valuable, humbling, and costly work. When I look around the farm I see a small piece of land where life is richer than it once was, and it gives me pleasure to be taking a small part in its life.

Samson 2010

My experience at the Garden was the best 10 months of my life. I went into farming with a very basic understanding of it, but with sheer determination I pulled through. There is true, raw power as you wield an oscillating hoe through a forest of weeds, doing your best not to injure the fragile onions in the bed, or leaning over for an extended period of time as you transplant lettuce with timed precision and accuracy. The knowledge and skills I gathered throughout the season gave me a new perspective on life, friendship and food. It challenged me mentally and physically, always demanding that I stride forward. A greater appreciation of the elements and the environment began to enter my thoughts, as I encountered small insects I’d never even heard of before, mulched sweet peppers during a heat wave, and patiently waited for the Swiss chard to thaw in October. Experiencing all the seasons taught me, mind and body, a deeper understanding of day to day life as a farmer. I hope to continue working with the land.

Hannah 2008-2009

This farming experience was so great because I was outside all the time working hard, getting blisters and backaches, hoeing the onions all day with people who loved it as much as I did. I learned, alongside my fellow apprenti: Meghan, Steve, Gar and Charlie, both the facts and attitudes necessary to farm this land well. Judy, Smadar and Mike, our teachers, bosses and friends, intimated this knowledge each in their own way, from their experience on this land as farmers. I began learning how to nourish the soil, myself and my community and how each in turn nourishes the other. Now I am continuing on, deepening this learning of farm life.

Meghan 2007-2008

The Community Supported Garden has been a great stepping stone in my farming career. I joined the team knowing little about farming and left with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the plants and the land, as well as about myself. The work challenged me physically and mentally. As apprentices, we participated in every aspect of the farm, including sowing seeds, preparing beds, transplanting, weeding and harvesting. One of my favorites was feeding the chickens! Often times, on Sundays I would walk the land and soak in the fruits of our labor. Mike, Judy and Smadar worked with us side by side and were open to any questions that arose. I am grateful for the knowledge they shared. In addition, the community welcomed me with open arms, and because of their acceptance, I felt like an important part of the farm’s family. I am currently farming with LotFotl Community Farm and hope to have a farm of my own in the near future.

Anthony 2006-2007

The folks at the CSG at Genesis took a chance and welcomed me well on short notice during a busy part of the season and many transitions in the life of the CSG. I had a couple months of vegetable growing under my belt but by the end of my first season at the CSG my eyes had opened to a vast new world and way of bringing food and people together which helped to initiate a hunger for great food, community, fellow farmers and friends to share the work with, and a passion to build my own confidence, knowledge and skills to navigate farming and life in general. That hunger continues today, nearly three years since my beginnings at Genesis, in a search to begin a farming venture bringing a great diversity of food and community together. The CSG at Genesis farm granted me great vegetable growing and community building skills I’ve carried throughout my tenure on other farms and helped give me direction on my path ahead.

Delia 2006

My long awaited 1st day in the garden finally arrived. I spent the day in the greenhouse sowing seeds in flats. Judy walked me through the process: she showed me how to mix potting soil with water in one of the garden carts until it was just the right consistency; fill the flats as quickly as possible; use the vacuum seeder; water the flats and place them in the germination chamber. I will never forget that first experience as I fumbled along, trying to do my best, but feeling that I would never become fast enough. By the time I said goodbye to the garden, I could power through this process like a pro—it was amazing how far I had come over the course of the season.

While I gained the knowledge that I had come to receive, I took away far more than I had ever hoped to acquire—friendships, moments of grace, and memories that continue to nourish me and keep me connected to earth even while living in an urban setting. I frequently call to mind one particular day in April when a young mother came into the kitchen with her beautiful baby boy as the garden team was having lunch. She looked at the baby and pointed to all of us and said: “These are the people who grow our food; let’s say thank you!” My heart cracked open, as tears filled my eyes—I don’t believe that I have ever felt more honored or proud in my entire life. Spend time in the garden and be changed forever!

Esther 2006

I was lucky to have found the CSG at Genesis Farm for my first farming internship. Someone once said that you never fully appreciate the impact that a place has on you until you leave it, which is definitely true in this case. The daily workings of Genesis Farm offered a wealth of knowledge—I participated in a diverse set of agricultural activities with farmers who know an incredible amount about the land that they work. I harvested greens on frosty October mornings, hoed weeds from rows of broccoli in penetrating mid-day sun, and peeled barrels of garlic cloves to be seeded for next year. Each activity that I took part in left me with a fuller ability to adapt and flourish, and a sense of empowerment in having discovered what I was capable of accomplishing. At lunch, I sat down with people I worked beside in the field, eating food we ourselves had prepared. While the work was often challenging, it was balanced by a little humor and simple human camaraderie. These intangible qualities, the spirit that animates the work, led to a profound experience of connection to the people I worked with, the land we worked and the food that we grew and ate. I have since gone on to work at two other farms, and I now participate in academic research on agriculture and food production. However, my time at Genesis Farm sparked an abiding love for the work and lifestyle. Though I am still in the process of finding the proper expression for this affinity in my own life, I am very grateful to have discovered it.

Steve 2002 -2003

Relative to many other apprentices to move through the CSG, I had very little time at the Garden. I worked there right out of college from May to November in 2002, and again from May to August of 2003. That time at the Garden, however short, was both wonderful and valuable. The work was remarkably varied. Despite the innumerable hours spent cultivating, the CSG is not a place where apprentices are expected to do the same thing every day. They are given a wide range of assignments and the opportunity to try their hand at a number of different jobs, from greenhouse to tractor work. Leaving the garden in August 2003, I took with me a new appreciation of growers, a stronger work ethic, and more confidence in my ability to handle tasks.

When I return to the farm almost every year I am struck by the continual growth of the garden. The recent addition of neighboring land has expanded opportunities for apprentices to try their hand at different types of farming. Similarly, there is a regular improvement of the facilities, most recently with the addition of a new seed closet, an office outside of the kitchen, and several more tractors. I’m excited to see what’s next. That said, I am always relieved to find that the gardeners have not changed one bit. They remain as cheerful, caring, easy-going, and hard-working as they were when I was an apprentice. They are all good friends, and I’m thrilled to know them.