Two years ago, I joined Organic Valley / CROPP Cooperative as an intern. While I now proudly call myself a CROPPie, I must admit the first few months were a transition. Despite being born and raised in the dairy capitol of the world, I had little to no farming experience let alone organic farming experience. But learning the ins and outs of organic dairy production wasn’t my only transition. CROPP Cooperative has a unique culture, which can best be described as “free-spirited.” CROPPies enjoy shared employee gardens, a shoes-are-optional policy, and a lot of kombucha.
I remember my first meeting in the Mission department. We were discussing projects and strategy when my supervisor said, “If we do this, we should be able to kill two birds with one stone.” A throat cleared and slowly, a hand followed. “Can we use a different saying to describe efficient work?” The group paused. “Why not, release two birds with one hand? Why do we measure efficiency in terms of killing with less effort?” My eyes widened, seriously? I nearly swiveled off my chair when my supervisor agreed, “Good point, Andy. From now on—release two birds with one hand.” Heads nodded in agreement and the meeting presumed.
Throughout the summer I absorbed everything there was to know about organic farming and our food system: GMO-labeling, pesticides, animal welfare, climate change. As my knowledge grew, so did my comfort with the bare feet and occasional eggs I’d find on my desk from my new co-worker Andy and his chickens. By the end of the summer my friend called to catch up. “When are you coming to visit?” she asked. I took a look at my bank account and sighed, “I can’t right now. I’m dirt poor.” I paused. “Why do we say ‘dirt poor’? The dirt isn’t poor! It’s rich in nutrients and provides us with plants, organisms, and disease fighting bacteria!”
“You’ve drank the kool-aid,” my friend laughed. I laughed too. But I wondered, had I? Or had I just opened my eyes?