The Road

Beulah and I made it to the farm, eventually.

There was a brief moment of panic in West Virginia when the summer heat and strain of steep grades overheated Beulah’s radiator. We had to limp to South Charleston, West Virginia to get radiator coolant, let the engine cool and the radiator circulate the fresh coolant, and rest. It was late evening by the time we arrived, so I opted to spend the night in a hotel and start again the next morning.

It was an angsty time. Car trouble. Heat wave. Forced to spend the night in a strange town.

Late to my first day of work.

With a free evening in a new town and no way to travel far, I walked around South Charleston after supper and took in the sunset. Something felt promising, looking west again. By the next morning, Beulah and I were back on the road and ready for our new life at the farm.

The Good Earth Farm

Down a patchy road, more gravel than pavement, Beulah and I finally found it.

Lunch was on the table. I met in that moment with a generosity of spirit that continues to overwhelm me nearly a month later. The friars had cookies waiting in my tiny cabin, a welcome sign on the front door, and lots of time and food and stories to share.

Most interns open their internship blogs with something along the lines of “This is seriously the best internship ever!” and then rattle on about how they aren’t, surprisingly, just running out of their grey concrete office for coffee orders or restocking printer paper in cubicles.

I’ll take a page from this tradition and say that interning at Good Earth Farm is phenomenal, life-changing, and one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

My morning commute is a walk down a gravel road to feed livestock and watch the sunrise from the barn. Running out of “the office” means driving the farm truck to the farmer’s market to donate pounds of produce to local food pantries. 9-to-5 is just a country song—I join the Common Friars for 6:30 a.m. morning prayer and then work and study and learn right through evening prayer and supper.

With no prior farming experience, I’ve jumped into the deep end to experience organic sustainable farming by harvesting, pruning, and weeding tomatoes, peas, potatoes, carrots, and more fresh vegetables than I’ve seen in my life.

The feeling of humility and awe when you eat food that you worked to harvest is indescribable. It’s infinitely more satisfying than wolfing down fast-food on a lunch break.

But this is more than just an internship. It’s a phenomenal opportunity to participate in a way of life that emphasizes things like land and hospitality and community.

The Common Friars work to “share the joy of food with all who hunger.” In one the poorest counties in Ohio and the nation, this mission may seem impossible. Paul, one of the friars, told me that they can’t confuse their work with an attempt to eliminate hunger—it’s more about doing their part and committing to sustainable charitable farming and amazing hospitality. It’s about letting their work speak for itself. It’s about sharing with whoever comes their way.

Through weekly farmer’s market donations and free community meals at area churches, the Good Earth Farm donates over 10,000 pounds of food to food pantries annually. More important than this, I think, is the farm’s commitment to people. When I first arrived I thought about work in terms of pounds of produce. But the real work of the farm and the Common Friars is people.

All of us.

The work of Good Earth Farm is by no means easy, but it’s the final outcome that’s key—food: simple, healthy, and joyfully shared with those who hunger.

This is the best internship ever.

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Robert Meissner

2012 Summer Intern