In the town where I grew up, 4th graders were assigned to write a first biography of a famous person. This was our first big research project–and it was an event. The teachers got a written report, and the students dressed up like their subjects, posing like statues in a wax museum for an evening while parents took pictures. I picked Rachel Carson, the groundbreaking environmental activist, scientist, and author.
I am thinking about Carson now, as I often do around Earth Day, thankful for the work she did to raise awareness about the harmful effects of pesticides in her book, Silent Spring. You may not be surprised that Carson’s work features in the history of Stearns Farm.
Penelope Turton, the woman who began farming organically at Stearns Farm, read Silent Spring when it came out in 1962. Penelope had been farming the land owned by her companion, Margaret Welch, since 1954, and she believed strongly in Carson’s profound message about how synthetic pesticides and other chemicals poisoned the environment and caused disease. Penelope began learning everything she could about organic gardening and her farm became one of the first dozen in the state to be recognized as a certified organic farm by the Natural Organic Farmers Association.
After the US Department of Agriculture issued different regulations in 2002, Stearns Farm did not pursue certification under the new rules (doing so entails ongoing extra expenses). However, every farmer since then has worked hard to guarantee that our land is free of harmful chemicals. We are completely dedicated to using organic farming practices.
I became inspired by Carson’s life work because I shared her passion for wildlife and the environment. I started a recycling club in middle school, and I attended summer camp at the South Shore Natural Science Center in Norwell. In college, I majored in Environmental Policy and Science, and I was the president of the Environmental Action Club. After graduating, I worked on a trail crew with the Student Conservation Association and helped to conserve and maintain trails all over Massachusetts.
When I finally worked my first season on an organic farm, I realized I had found the best way that I could help to conserve and protect a little part of the world. Not only do I farm for myself and all of you, I farm for the killdeer that lays her eggs at the farm each spring, for the worms that wiggle beneath the surface of the soil, and for the bees that buzz by me each morning.
“There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring, Carson wrote. “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” This is one of my favorite quotes, and I hope it inspires you to observe the interconnectedness of our farms, our food, and ourselves with the rest of the natural world.
Until next time,