By Lauren Hunt

 As a young person, I was a spiritual seeker interested in the religious teachings of India. I developed a love for the practice of yoga. I heard a guru encourage his followers to create agrarian communities based on the ideals of “high thinking and simple living,” and I was fascinated. I was so impressed by a visit to one of these small farm communities that my life path became clear to me. Food and community became the themes of my life. 

Being a suburban kid from Grosse Pointe who didn’t have much of a connection to nature, I felt a need to build a foundation with the land first. I became an environmental studies major in college and focused a lot of my curriculum on agroecology. I was involved with the college’s research and demonstration farm for the four years I was there. I found biodynamic agriculture, the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, and the new economic form of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to be especially intriguing. My quest to learn more after college led me and my partner to live and work on small CSA farms for a few seasons as apprentices. Our connection to the biodynamic farming community led us to the beautiful area of southwest Wisconsin known as the Driftless Region. We purchased some land in 2004 and developed a biodynamic homestead for eight years. We raised our two kids there along with honeybees, chickens, cattle, vegetables, berries, and herbs. 

In 2016, after 14 years of rural and small town life in Wisconsin, I felt called to move back to Michigan to be closer to my family. A friend told me about the Community Farm of Ann Arbor and suggested we check it out. The farm had been run by farmers Paul Bantle and Annie Elder for the last 25 years, and they were transitioning into retirement. 

My partner and I visited the farm and I immediately was lit up by the project, the community, the idealism, and the model the farm operated on. Unfortunately making a move from one state to another proved to be more complicated than we thought, and we weren’t able to take the position. When we arrived in Ann Arbor in late 2017, the farm had secured new farmers, and I turned my attention to building a new life for my family and sharing my passion for the practice of yoga. 

In March 2020, when the COVID pandemic abruptly stopped the work I was doing as a yoga teacher and wellness coach, I contacted Karen Chalmer, a long-time member at the Farm to check in and see where I could get involved. She informed me that the farm was without a head farmer that year, and was on the search again. I was interested in stepping in, but I didn’t feel confident in my abilities to take on the lead role alone. Instead, I went to work at another local organic vegetable farm that was women-run for the season. I found such inspiration in women farming together. I knew after that season that working with the land again was what I felt called to do. 

The 2020-21 school year was anything but normal. My children were attending the Rudolf Steiner School, and because of the pandemic, they were looking for people to step in and help teach the children in small learning pods. I was tapped to teach gardening. That’s when I met the new head farmer for the Community Farm, Dan Gannon, who had recently moved from California to take the position.  

I volunteered on the farm that fall and was hired as an employee for the summer of 2021 to work the fields planting, weeding, and harvesting. At the end of that summer, at age 43, I found myself facing divorce, a soon-to-be empty nest, and a need to reinvent myself. Upon introspection, I noticed that my heart still felt the longing for simple living and community. The pandemic made it starkly clear to me that life is short. The message I took away was that now was the time to realign myself with my values and to not give up on the dreams I had for my life.  

And what a perfect place to start this second act of my life, on a farm that is deeply rooted in female leadership! I love how our community honors all of its past farmers, and their presence is still felt on the farm today. I feel honored to be a part of the legacy of strong women leading this community. 

After the growing season ended last year, I knew I wanted to stay involved. When a piece of adjoining land came up for sale, I jumped at the opportunity and was able to purchase it with help from my family. I have visions of building a small eco-house for myself, developing a community kitchen, building housing for future apprentices and employees, expanding our educational programs, and dreaming with the community about how else we might use this space. For now, the farm leases the land from me and is using it to expand the grazing operation for the animals. 

The recent addition of a variety of farm animals is a part of our revitalization and transformation plan. Our farm has always been innovative and progressive, so it’s no surprise that we are driving solar-powered tractors and powering our facility with solar panels. The next big thing we’re focused on is organic no-till farming. No-till farming minimizes soil disturbance, which helps keep carbon in the soil. It also enriches soil biodiversity, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers that emit greenhouse gasses.

In agriculture, revitalization is key as many farms are dying out as farmers retire. Passing the baton along to the next generation is critical, and with that comes renewal and new ways of thinking about things. At this moment in time, with a new farmer, new energy, and new visions for the future, I feel excitement for what we can create. We carry with us the wisdom and history of those that came before and their passion for farming that not only cares for the food we grow, but also for the growers, consumers, land, and planet. 

BIO:

Lauren Hunt is a community member of the Community Farm of Ann Arbor. She has a background in yoga instruction and diabetes lifestyle coaching. You might see her around the area swimming at Pickerel Lake, kayaking the Huron River, or leading a chant at the Full Moon Kirtan event. 

To learn more about the Community Farm and about becoming part of their CSA program, visit us at http://communityfarmofaa.org or on Facebook or Instagram.