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Farming as a Web of Relationships

Farming as a Web of Relationships

Gwenyn Hill Farm began hosting apprentices through the state-wide Organic Vegetable Farm Manager Apprenticeship program in 2021. We are proud to support these apprentices as they learn about everything it takes to run an organic vegetable farm operation. Here at Gwenyn Hill, this means balancing ecological stewardship with the day-to-day economic and operational realities of running a farm business. One of our new 2023 apprentices, Kerem, shares his thoughts on this topic in this journal post.

By Kerem Sengun

Like many new to farming, I am separated from farming ancestors by a cloud of forgetting, migration and immense economic shifts in the world. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in these shifts and turbulences. I am continually fascinated by the long and complicated histories of agriculture and land stewardship. 

About twelve years ago, I decisively moved away from a potential life in academia towards an immensely challenging yet enriching vocation in land stewardship and farming. I love the work that I do because it sets me into an elemental and ancient conversation. There are no abstractions in this work. By necessity, it calls for an omnivorous curiosity and a multiplicity of skills. Regenerative farming calls for close attention to detail and to the intricate webs of relationships. 

Eastern Kingbird and overwintered scallions

It is by the simple act of leaving scallions in the ground to overwinter and to flower come springtime that I observed and learned about the relationship between a flower, an insect and a migratory bird. I have embraced my senses and careful observation as the best and first tools at my disposal.

As I chart my future as a farmer, I often think of regenerative farming as an economic activity within a wider economic context; not isolated from its ecological, cultural, and spiritual contributions, but distinct from them. 

What does it mean to farm in a way that does not reduce the work to a singular focus of generating economic value? Collectively, we struggle to value things that do not have a dollar sign attached to them. This is an ongoing problem for those engaged in doing the care-work that regenerative farming is. 

How do we keep doing this work within a larger economy that views farmland as a speculative asset and that detracts and distracts from the important work of healing the wounds done by an industrial society? What are the mutual webs of obligations inherent in this work? How do we handle the tension inherent in the notion of land as an economic unit and land as part of an ecological continuum? 

Before joining Gwenyn Hill Farm I co-built and managed a half-acre urban farm in Chicago, which, in effect, served as my farm and ecology school. It is here at Gwenyn Hill Farm that I hope to learn the vital skills I need to be able to do this work at a scale I couldn’t have dreamed of just a handful of years ago. The value of learning from someone who has farmed against the grain and wrestled with the economic realities of farming in America will be priceless. I trust this land will prove to be fertile ground for more important questions and home to more astounding observations.

I am grateful to be given the chance to keep my hand in the soil. 

Kerem Sengun ran a farm in the heart of Chicago for six years before joining Gwenyn Hill Farm as an Organic Vegetable Farm Manager apprentice in 2023. 

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