For the love of food, journalist trades notepad for hoe

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by Janna Goerdt

I think it’s because I like dirt.

I like the way it feels between my fingers, underneath my nails. Gritty and good. Earthy.

So I think that being around dirt is one reason I became a farmer this year, one reason among others to leave journalism and turn towards growing food.

Former newspaper journalist Janna Goerdt has never been afraid to dig for the good stuff.

Former newspaper journalist Janna Goerdt has never been afraid to dig for the good stuff.

For years and years, my dirt time was restricted to weekends and the occasional early morning weeding session. I had to keep my fingers and hands reasonably clean for work, and I spent a lot more time with a computer and notebooks than seed packets and earth.

That all changed this spring, when I started a small farm at our home in Embarrass. It’s a small but well-rounded farm - carrots and cantaloupe, free-range chickens and turkeys, hayfields and honeybees.

I wanted to grow good, simple food for people. I have been lucky enough to eat this kind of food for most of my life, and, as people learn more about how most of the food in this country is grown, there is more and more demand for the truly fresh, home-grown variety. People should be able to eat a locally-grown, honest carrot, not a tortured, tasteless orange torpedo raised on chemicals and trucked in from across the country. We should care more about what’s good for our bodies, what tastes good naturally, rather than some kind of corn-based snack product that’s glued together with chemicals to make it taste like something exotic.

And so I’m farming.

So far, it’s been good to be around all this dirt. At small farms, farmers do a lot of dirt work with their hands, unlike at corporate-owned thousand acre farms where most everything is done by machine. Here, my hands are in dirt all day long: planting seedlings, pulling weeds, checking the soil moisture, breaking up lumps of clay, working in compost.

I give my hands a good scrub at the end of each day. The soap lather usually turns a bright yellow as it mixes with the pollen covering my skin, and some of the dirt is so worked into the creases of my fingers that it never does come off.

But I like it. It feels good to be so grounded, so entwined with the soil that we all depend on for our food, though we often forget that. It feels good to grow.