A Summer Farming with Ivan Perez

Some summers are meant for reflection, some for rest, this summer was meant for adventure. Ivan’s adventure.

Undoubtably, this past summer has been an unconventional one. For me, it was a time for rest, searching for new opportunities, and reflecting on what I desire for my future. As a result, I have had time to create and design my blog, work on new business ideas, read a slew of books, and dream up new, exciting projects for the future- stay tuned for some more exciting blog content coming soon! For my dear friend Ivan, this summer was about diving into something new: farming. When Ivan thought about what he wanted his summer to look like, amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, he reflected upon simpler times, when life was full of the peace and magic that the outdoors can often instill within us.


Hello Ivan, tell the people who you are and a little bit about yourself.

I am currently a Senior at Babson College studying entrepreneurship and business strategy. I’m a cancer sun and gemini moon which really describes me (moodiness included). I live my life knowing that I am incredibly lucky to be alive, lucky to have supportive friends, and have selfless parents that help ground me. In anything I do, I try to seek discomfort, and try not to make life more complicated than it has to be. However, I can be a very restless person and, as a result, you might see me take on random projects. Maybe it’s ADHD, maybe it’s an internal fear of being stuck doing something forever, but I love jumping around learning as much as I can from everything!

Why farming and why this summer?

As a kid I love gardening with my mom and dad. From the ages of 6 to 12 I remember going to Lowe’s every Saturday because they had free workshops to build random things. I still have birdhouses that me and my dad built from when I was 10. While my dad and I were building things in a random corner of Lowe’s, my mom would always be in the garden section with a cart full of plants and flowers. I loved Saturdays because I was either at Lowe’s or spending time with my mom planting flowers outside. Till this day it’s one of my favorite childhood memories

During quarantine, I was stuck. I felt hopeless every time I opened Instagram- I felt like the world was going to shit, and grew frustrated that I wasn’t doing anything meaningful to make things better. So, I decided to do something that would be meaningful and make me happy. That was farming for me.

How did you convince your parents to let you go live on a farm for a month?

I live my life dedicated to seeking discomfort and trying to push boundaries in everything I do. For me this meant, packing up my backpack and living on an organic farm in the middle of nowhere Texas. I won’t self-incriminate myself, but I’ve had to tell one too many white lies to my parents to convince them to let me do things. I really believe that if you care about something, no matter the obstacles, you will find a way to get it done! This is something that I remind myself often.

What are some things you have learned about farming?

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READ, READ,READ. Get informed! Know where your food is coming from, who is the person that is farming your food, are they good people, and they are trying their best to be sustainable, do they use insecticides, do they use pesticides/fertilizers that contaminate run-off water? Learn as much as you can about the things you are putting into your body.

Most organic farmers are not actually organic. There are big loopholes in organic regulations. There is an inherent conflict of interest built into the organic certification system. The very agencies that inspect organic farmers and processors, and certify their products, are paid by the farmers they certify. Also, just to get nerdy with you, there are three types of organic classifications: 

  1. ‘100% organic’ is the highest level, for packaged foods and produce.
  2. ‘Organic’ products contain at least 95% organic ingredients.
  3. ‘Made with organic ingredients’ contains at least 70% organic ingredients.

Most times in grocery stores, nothing is 100% organic, even at places like Whole Foods, most things are organic and not 100% organic. Customers are oftentimes misled and no one really cares to double check things. However, I’m optimistic that things are changing and that starts by voting for officials that care about the environment, that will ensure fair regulations, and have a willingness to advocate transparency in every sector of life. 

What are some things you have learned about yourself?

If you don’t know what you are passionate about, try new things. I loved farming, but am I passionate about it to do it for the rest of my life? I don’t think so. Farming can be very lonely. I was out in the field with 106 Fahrenheit (41 Celsius) degree weather everyday. I was waking up before most people even have their first dream, and it’s only you, the fields, and the livestock. It was very lonely most days, which was hard for me because I enjoy talking to people. But, back to something I learned, you don’t know something until you have tried it. So I challenge myself and you, to try something new, deviate a bit from the norm, and learn to push yourself!

What is one piece of advice you wish you knew at the beginning of this farm-adventure?

Patience. Nothing happens overnight. The plants we were germinating in July weren’t going to be harvested until 4-5 months later. The soil we were growing on had taken 28 years for it to be nutrient rich and the farm itself started over 30 years ago.

Paul, the main farmer and owner, who is 74 probably, will never live to sit under the shade of the trees he planted. These pear trees planted will probably outlive me. 

Yet, I watered them everyday because I knew that nothing in this world is mine, that my time here is limited, and sometimes we will never see the fruits of our own labor, but that doesn’t mean we give up! If anything, it motivated me to wake up grateful for everything I had around me. Also, drink tons of water and wear sunscreen! 

What do you wish more people knew about farming and where their food comes from?

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Behind every farm, is the dream to make the world a better place. If you have the ability to shop directly from a farmer please do so. Google local farmers near you, call your local community garden, ask how you can get involved, volunteer your time to help out if you can

Also, I wish people had the confidence to start small, have patience, and slowly become more self-sufficient. The best way to know how something is grown is by growing it yourself! Buy that basil plant you always wanted to buy or, better yet, get the seeds and watch it grow! It might not seem like you are making a difference, but every small thing matters!

 

Would you recommend this experience to other people and, if so, why?

YESSS! Please, please, please! It should be on everyone’s bucket list to work on a farm, preferably an organic farm! Before you die, you have to visit a farm, you have to volunteer at a farm, or, better yet, become a farmer! Nothing compares to being able to see something grow, to literally go from the soil to your table. It’s like watching a baby grow right before your eyes, it’s so rewarding! It helps you appreciate all the hard work that goes into growing and making the food we all eat. Please put it on your bucket list to work at a farm and hopefully you think of me when you’re out in the fields picking weeds.

How has this experience changed your perspective and what will you do differently going forward because of this experience?

My parents immigrated to the United States when they were teenagers almost 30+ years ago. My mom’s first job was when she was 13 years old at a tomato farm where she earned less than $1 per hour. As of 2019, the average Mexcian farmer makes 3,200 pesos ($165) a month.  Many people around the world and in places not so far from us are struggling. They are exploited, they are underpaid, have no access to healthcare, suffer from diseases caused by extreme sun exposure, and barely have enough money to make ends meet. This is the reality that most people live, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Therefore, it is our responsibility as people to try to fix these injustices by not only voting for people that care about these issues, but also involving ourselves in solving these injustices.

There are big problems in the world and not enough people that care enough to solve them. I challenge myself, and you reading this, to have the courage to find something you care about and make it better! We all have it in us to make the world a better place, all we have to do is start!

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