Estelle Drisdelle

Owner, Understory Farm and Design

I search through seed magazines with all kinds of plants, herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Offering high yield, more flavor, disease resistance, taller, bigger, brighter. All organic and non-gmo, the food we eat is all contained in that seed. All life bursts from this tiny grain, or fruit, or capsule of life.  The seed company or the seed farmer took the time to care for the soil, grow the seed, prevent cross-pollination or encourage it, test germination rates, package, and ship the seed to me. No small task. Now my work begins, the end result is food on your plate. It starts with the seed, but really it starts with the soil that grew that seed.

I start in the fall by taking care of the soil, adding soil amendments and cover crops to stabilize it. I think about the soil life and how to preserve it, an important ally to growing food. In the spring, I plant the seed in tiny pots indoors and carefully water it and keep it warm on cold nights, weeks of work while the snow melts.

Eventually, the plant is hardened off it’s time to plant it in the field. I’m lugging water, compost, mulch and tools across the field over to the plant. Designing a system to allow me to work smarter, not harder becomes evident. My body is sore and the biting insects are thick, I mean, reeeally thick, but there it is – your food.

I do this a thousand times to thousands of plants, growing, watering, weeding – and finally harvesting. Cutting, more lugging, washing, bagging or drying. Finally, starting with a seed and ending in a harvest bin, I have a bag of greens or a bundle of herbs or a homemade salve to bring to market.

The land is abundant, the soil life is abundant, the food is rich and nutritious, the medicine is potent. Yes, you can get something elsewhere the looks very similar – but how does it taste? Who and what was harmed in its process? Where did it come from and what is the condition of that far away land? Who and under what conditions was this food harvested and how were they treated? Of course, I also buy food from far away land, I really do want fresh tomatoes in the winter and bananas, and avocados, and dates.

In my first year of farming I have grown much gratitude for small-scale farmers and farming. We not only grow plants and raise animals, but we are also activists, for better treatment of all people and land, and for more appreciation of food and where it comes from. We work within a system that degrades this appreciation, along with food security and food sovereignty for everyone, especially those who are struggling. Women comprise of 43% of the agricultural labor force (FAO) and we play a crucial role in bringing food to your plate and supporting the rural economy, and many women carry the burden of simply getting food to a plate.

There are social, economic, and ecological challenges integrated into our food system and I’m working hard to find a solution, as you can see it is so much more than food! As Wes Jackson said “If you’re working on a problem that can be solved in your own lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough”.  I see this as….‘don’t despair if you’re working on a problem that can’t be solved in your own lifetime’, it’s worth it.  It feels good to be joining in with this movement, along with all the other farmers, friends, customers, and small businesses that are willing to make this worth it – and possible.  Thank-you a thousand times, once for each plant I’ll grow.

Permaculture, Food Sovereignty, Climate Change, Social Equity, Plant enthusiast, Farmer, Medicine maker, Seed saver

Estelle Drisdelle