first time farmer

As I dig back into my photo archives, I can virtually witness one of the largest personal transformations I've gone through in my life so far. After graduating high school early and "running away" to Northern California on a whim at 17, I found myself going down the rabbit hole. I'll admit it.. I was a hot MESS. That may sound worse than it actually was. However, too much drinking, odd jobs, and inexhaustible desire to party left me feeling lost. The kind of lost so many of us seem to go through in our first years away from home. I wanted to find a passion. I wanted something real, something that could cleanse away the ridiculous damage I was subjecting myself to.

After several weeks of research, I left for the Big Island of Hawaii to learn how to grow food. I was terrified! Luckily, the organization WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) linked me up with the 130 acre fruit/tomato farm I worked on for several weeks. I later transferred to another farm in the mountains of Honoka'a. WWOOFing is a popular resource for thousands of people around the world, who seek an enlightening work-trade opportunity, while exploring a new state or country. It helped me completely change my course in life, while introducing me to countless sustainable, inspiring individuals. 

As described on their website "WWOOF specializes in linking people who are passionate about healthy food, healthy living and a healthy planet. Join us, show your support for the organic movement and start learning (or sharing) ways of living a more sustainable life."

I arrived with absolutely zero knowledge about how food is grown. I find this ironic to look back on, as my 12 years in secondary school taught me absolutely nothing about one of the most vital aspects of life itself. I was given a small bed in a shack and a $40 weekly stipend for groceries (outside of what I could forage for). Every aspect of my first week on the farm felt as if i'd been born again. We woke at 4:30 AM, had coffee, held hands in a circle and stated our intentions for the day, and headed to the massive greenhouses. Our first job of the day was to gently tap the tomato plants, mimicking natures subtle wake-up call. This duty was theorized by our team leaders and oftentimes questionable in it's efficiency. However, the concept alone was so transformative. The thought that I could participate in natures process and mimic the feeling rain drops would give the leaves was incredible. I was hooked.

The following weeks I found myself eating bizarre fruits, swimming in the warm pacific, exploring run-down experimental fruit farms, eating avocados straight from the tree, and going to bed at 8 PM. We didn't have internet or access to town (unless we hitched). I spent many days just wandering around the property after work, examining the fruit trees and seeking any sort of edible good to bring home. At the time, I was unaware of how rapidly my mindset was shifting. I didn't realize I was tapping into the source of life I had been longing for. I picked the majority of my food. I ached and slept deeply. I watched our water catchment fill up each afternoon when the rain came. I was at the source of what was keeping me alive, in turn, making me feel whole again. 

Looking back, I feel such deep gratitude for this time in my life. My gut led me out of my comfort zone and slapped me in the face with what is vital and important. Since my WWOOFing experience 2012, I've spent the last 5 years working on organic produce/CSA farms in Northern California. From planting thousands of onions, hoeing till my arms feel like they're about to fall off, and sharing the bounty at farmers market, I've never been happier! I hope to continue farming as long as I can and would love to exchange and share knowledge with anyone interested. 

young pineapple on the farm

young pineapple on the farm

surf with amigas highlight

This winter was loooong and wet. Actually, it was THE wettest winter recorded in 122 years. I was more than ready to leave Northern California for another season working for Surf With Amigas in Northern Nicaragua. Prior to my departure, my final surf with my boyfriend was a quintessential Humboldt session. Pouring rain, freezing water, dark stormy skies, and not a soul in sight. If the rainy, cold water wasn't already enough, I had multiple sessions this winter when the sand had frozen and the ocean water was incredibly warmer than the air. Regardless of the conditions, I'm still getting my salt water fix and feeling better about life afterwards. However, February and warmer water couldn't come soon enough.. 

I was en route to our retreat location in rural Nicaragua and got word from my boss Holly about the big swell on the way. I had no clue what to expect, as big swells in Nicaragua are vastly different than Northern California. As I arrived and the retreat began, the massive swell made it's way, along with an abundance of insane wipeouts and waves. Luckily, the retreat was full of incredible women who truly wanted to go beyond their comfort zones and have an experience they'd never forget.

I, too, had an experience I'll never forget! On the morning of the biggest day, we'd given everyone the option of paddling out one-on-one at the point or hanging out and cheering on their fellow amigas. Karen, who happened to be celebrating her 40th birthday this day, was ready. She is a full time nurse and truly one of the sweetest people I've ever met. Prior to this trip, she'd never stepped foot on a surf board. We strapped on our leashes and were ready to get out the back. We waited for a lull between sets and paddled out as fast as we could. After several chaotic turtle rolls, we made it. Ironically, the biggest set of the day started to roll in. Karen was in a good spot and I was eager to get her a wave. The last thing I wanted was for us to have worked so hard to get out the back to then get washed in by the monster set. Karen turned her board towards shore and I told her to paddle hard. I gave her a shove and off she went! I knew she'd made the drop because the board is typically visible when someone wipes out. I instantly chased after her to make sure she was alright. After we endured several waves on the head we finally made it to the beach. We each sighed with relief and laughter, recounting her epic wave. She kept repeating "That was awesome, wow, that was so awesome." and I couldn't help but to say the same. 

Karen's birthday bomb

Karen's birthday bomb

Luckily, Surf with Amigas has two camera boys at their Northern Nicaragua location who do their best to film every wave. I was hoping to GOD they had Karen's wave on camera. On this particular week, they had captured some of the best wipeout/wave footage I've seen during a retreat, mostly due to the sheer size of the waves. Aside from the epic wave riding, this day was also filled with incredible camaraderie. All the ladies who opted out (understandably) hung out on the beach and hooted/howled for each woman on every wave. Everyone was so proud of each other for pushing their limits, whether they paddled out or not that week. 

Karen's wave has become an inspiration I find myself thinking of regularly. She reminded me that we can enter any situation, regardless of our fears and inexperience, and do the damn thaaang. It is SO easy to say no and continue on the safer path, leaving us unchanged and "protected from the unknown". However, the moment we step out of the safe zone and take the risk, we find an inner strength and commitment to whatever situation we're facing. We become stronger and less afraid of life's uncertainty. "You don't know until you go..."

Check out the video footage from this retreat below.

Check out Surf With Amigas website below, as well as Holly's blog post about this particular week.



upwelling and seeding: welcome spring

*written on may 4th, 2014

Spring is in full force. The endless coastal trails resemble the wild, foreign jungles we dream of so often. Miners lettuce and stinging nettle dance around my ankles as I skip down the pathways, only to be rinsed off by the fiercely chilly Pacific. Upwelling has a way of making the ocean incredibly bittersweet. The visibility peaks; making the sight of the teal, turquoise surf irresistible. “Taking the plunge” however, ain’t as sweet as she looks. The cold penetrates into the core of my bones, slowly turning me into a neoprene popsicle from the inside out. Each duck dive delivers visions of Hawaiian tubes (that I’ve only seen in pictures), imagining myself skin to skin with the warm surf thousands of miles away. However, after I’ve made it outside the break, grey whale spouts and milky sunsets erase the idea of ever leaving the fantastic place I’ve made into my home. Washed up sailor jellies cover the lonely coastline, mixed in with sand dollars and redwood debris. When the swell drops, the search beneath the surface begins. When the visibility prevails, abalone and other mollusks hide within the rocks. On a good day the reef looks seemingly tropical, with countless marine species living happily and flourishing. 

On land, the farm is going off. Seeding, harvesting, and maintenance projects only provide me with endless metaphors for life and fantastic epiphanies. More often than not, I imagine time-lapse photography because of how incredibly fast things seem to grow. Snap peas, strawberries, spinach, broccoli and turnips are just a few of my recent favorites. The new norm of little rain and higher temperatures has made for early harvests with many different varieties. Cold north winds howl throughout the afternoon. I’ll sinch my hoodie tight around my face, only making my eyes and nose visible (quite an awesome look). After an honest days work, we pack up our bags full of extra produce. After dropping off goodie bags around town for friends, I arrive home with a table spread of vegetables and berries. Life is bountiful and I am so thankful in this moment. 

It’s Monday morning and I’m off to start studying for the day, however, I couldn’t help putting down these happy thoughts.