Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Alumni Chronicles: WWOOFing In The Wild West

Welcome to fhe first post in the Alumni Chronicles series.  Lisa Lamanna, Verrazano Class of 2012, studied Biology at the College of Staten Island before packing up and heading west to intern on an organic farm in New Mexico.  Lisa shares what life has been like since finishing her undergraduate degree this past spring.

Since my graduation in May 2012 I’ve been on the move.  First, I turned up the volume in my work life to gather some money to buy a new used car.  By day I held a job as an Earth Camp counselor for the Staten Island Museum, and in the nighttime I was a waitress at Adobe Blues restaurant.  In three months and a few bonds later I was able to purchase my brand-new-used Suzuki Grand Vitara.

Secondly I took off towards to the Wild West.  I drove for three days to Santa Fe, New Mexico, encountering the cruddiest, most run-down towns possible, pocket-marked highways and ferocious crosswinds.  I stopped only in Columbus, Ohio and Neosho, Missouri to rest for the night.  I made it to Santa Fe on the third night just was the sun was setting, painting the barren juniper riddled land in a splendor of all royal golds, pinks, and oranges imaginable. Taking it all in I was overwhelmed with a divine affirmation that I was exactly where I was meant to be in that precise moment of my life.

I spent the month of October volunteering on the Three Sisters Farm in the hills of Glorieta, a small (really small) town on the outskirts of Santa Fe. This volunteer internship was mediated through WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities of Organic Farms), ”a non-profit organization that facilitates an exchange of culture and education by connecting domestic and international travelers with sustainably-minded hosts throughout the United States and its territories.”  In that month I learned how to garden like a pro and in the winter time.  Amy, my host, showed me how to nurture seeds into germination, how to season the soil and pick out lumpy rocks, how to keep careful attention of the greenhouse to make it the prefect atmosphere for life to flourish.

I welcomed my training with open arms.  Being a self-proclaimed botanist, I was particularly excited about having someone with years of farming experience show me the ways of her work. I’ve taken many a walk and hike and can recognize one ecosystem from the next, but working in a greenhouse was like being personally introduced to the plants for the first time. Each species had its own slew of preferences from germination period to soil type. Some were high maintenance and yielded few precious fruits. Some were abundance and required no attention at all. The whole experience was reminiscent of America’s Industrial Era, where the influx of many immigrants resulted in a patchwork of cultural areas in NYC.   I was patient with the work, diligent, and eager to strengthen the mutual relationship between farmer and plant.

Friday mornings my host and I would spend a few hours harvesting and cleaning the crops in preparation for the farmer’s market.  These special markets would be held in town after the children got home from school.  It was a festive thing to see tables lined up with all different local farmers proudly displaying their finest crops.  For four hours a band or lone violinist would be playing while the merchants were busy tending to customers or trading goods with neighbors. Of course there was more than just produce; people sold pizza, knit hats, flutes, belts and tea, and even a knife sharpener was there to make a buck. Only when dark began to fall and the crowd thinned did the merchants begin to pack their remaining items and go home.

Lisa Lamanna, Verrazano Class of 2012
On the weekends I would visit my friends. Both had attended CSI and moved out west after they graduated. They showed me around town to their favorite food spots, the endless art museums, and the mountains for hiking.  Santa Fe, I’ve concluded, is no bigger than Staten Island and has just as many main roads (Hylan Blvd, Clove Rd, Victory Blvd, etc..). The difference is that Santa Fe is in the middle of a rocky desert and all of the buildings are adobe style. Regardless, I absolutely love it here. My most recent reason why is that this land used to be the bottom of the deep blue sea for a good chunk of Earth’s history, and even after it was lifted by tectonic plate shifts, the land still retained that bottom-of-the-sea tranquility to it.  It's peaceful here - a true meeting of land and sky - and out of it the flavors of creativity, soulfulness, collective consciousness, and humanity are constantly being born.  Maybe I’m crazy but while I’ve got nothing to lose I’m going to remain here and indulge.

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