Dirt Eaters

Work, Food, and Communal Transformation

(from the frontlines of a hopeful revolution)

Learn to Care

Here are a few words that I wrote to thank Tyson Neukirch, the Head Vegetable Grower at The Farm School. I read these aloud at the Maggie's Farm Graduation Ceremony on Saturday, September 13th. 

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Today we’re graduating from a program called Learn to Farm, and it’s impossible to quantify how much I’ve learned about farming this year from our head vegetable grower, Tyson Neukirch. Considering that in a few days I’m going to start doing this for real, for a profit, to make a living, considering that I’m going to try to support a family by growing vegetables for sale, I’ll likely never be able to thank him enough. But, it’s worth a try: Tyson, from all of us, thank you.

For better or worse, Tyson cares. A lot. Tyson puts his whole being - mind, body, and soul - into this program. I’ve learned from watching him that to farm well, you have to care. Because it is endlessly hard work, because there are always tempting shortcuts, because your present self is forever at war with your future self, because there are infinite decisions to make, and to make the right ones over and over and over again requires a lot. It requires curiosity, it requires creativity, it requires caring deeply. Tyson has all of that in spades.

You also have to care because making a living by growing food “the right way” is statistically improbable. Literally, most farms and farmers don’t make money. And yet we’re going to try, because we have ambitions, because we have dreams, because we want to live out our values.

Tyson nurtured all of that in us. He works harder than anyone I’ve ever met, and yet manages to stay present and engaged in each of our lives, manages to care deeply about us as students and as people. As a former teacher myself, I can attest that that is endlessly hard work as well, and yet Tyson clearly cares as much about teaching as about farming. They’re both integral parts of his person, and it shows in every interaction. No matter how stressed, no matter how exhausted, he always makes space for us to learn and grow, he always prioritizes our development, our future. He was always cheerful and gracious and kind with us, no matter what else was going on.

And then he went back to work.

Farmers don’t control much, but Tyson showed us that every day, every moment, we control our attitude. We control how we approach this world we’ve inherited, this work we’ve chosen. We’re doing all of the things. We’re living the dream.

Thanks again, Tyson. It’s been an honor.