Agroecology Internship 2003
Some of Maureen’s thoughts on Sonnewald
Working on a farm this summer would have been a unique-enough event. However, working at Sonnewald this summer made the experience even more unique. The thing that struck me most about the place was how conscientious the people are about their health and the environment. Being on an organic farm, I expected it to a point. But never did I expect the level that they took it to. Let me give you a few examples.
One of the first weeks that we were there, Sara and I got the chance to take part in one of Grace’s “Weed Walks.” (Grace is the matriarch of the farm and store and at this time is in her 80’s and still as active as ever!) She held several of these walks during the summer, and all were invited to attend. The set-up of the walk was as follows: we showed up and signed in (Grace keeps a guest book of everyone that visits her at Sonnewald). Afterwards, she took us around the yard and farm, showing us the different weeds and herbs that are growing there. The final part of the event was when she made her “green drink;” this was a mix of the herbs and weeds that she picked during the walk, along with different nuts and spices. Where else but Sonnewald would you be able to learn which weeds are good for healing bee stings (plantain), or which weeds make a good sandwich spread (chickweed and parsley)? How many people know that yarrow is good to stop bleeding or that wild strawberry leaves are high in vitamin C? I have to admit that at the time, I was a bit suspicious of all that I heard during that event. I felt that this could very well be some crazy new age thinking stuff and I was not sure if I was willing to buy it. However, once I got used to Grace and her beliefs, it started to make more sense. But Grace is not the only one who is into this “natural thinking;” let me give you some more examples how seriously the people at Sonnewald were about their health and environment.
Carol is Farmer Steve’s wife and is an employee at the store. She is also busy with their business, Harmony Essential, and is working on her PhD. Her expertise is in natural health. One of the mottos at the store is the statement, “Good health comes from the farm, not the pharmacy,” meaning that health should not come in a bottle filled with synthetically-made vitamins or medicine. Rather, eating healthily and chemical-free is the way to go. Carol is a huge supporter of this idea. During our last week of work, she offered to teach us (Sara, Elaine, and I) how to make homemade bread. All of the ingredients that we used were completely natural. We used natural raw honey (instead of pasteurized), vegetable oil and organic butter (instead of margarine), sugar from birch trees (rather than the bleached processed cane sugar), and spelt flour (which is easier for most people to digest). But she does not stop at the food. When I got a bad cold this summer, she gave me homeopathic cold medicine, made from all natural stuff. When I got some poison on my skin, she made me put plantain on it to help it heal. She is very knowledgeable about health and nutrition and she is a great person to go to for advice.
This way of thinking is not just done by the employees. Some of the customers are as aware of their health and environment too. Take, for instance, Don Myers. Don is a loyal customer at the store who shows up every Friday. Don is a vegetarian who eats as much raw food as he can (raw food has more enzymes in them that helps you body with digestion). He is also an ultra-marathoner who trains for races of all lengths. (He is currently in training for a 30-mile race.) Don is one of many of the customers who are so serious about what they are putting into their bodies.
I could go on about the other employees at Sonnewald, but that would take up a lot of time and space. The point is that being around these people has made me more conscientious about my health and diet and that of typical Americans. We know quite well that many Americans have awful eating habits. As a society, we consume too much sugar and red meat and foods produced with chemicals. This summer has really opened my eyes to how damaging these things can be. I came to the farm expecting to learn how to plant and harvest the different crops. While I learned that stuff, I was also exposed to a new way of thinking about health and nutrition. I think that these ideas were a very important part of my experience, and the people with these ideas are what make Sonnewald unique.