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Awakening Through Farming, Cooking and Travel: Part One

I went through my first year at JMU feeling like there was no place I belonged.

I was withdrawn socially and in a relationship that kept me tied down and unable to grow. I did an intense workout everyday, went to several classes, studied rigorously and for better or worse, excelled academically.

My schedule kept me in my head, leaving little space to live from my heart. Yet, something deep within me yearned to align my daily practices with my true passions while connecting with like-minded people along the way.

Come springtime, I decided that I would take a semester off in the fall of my sophomore year. I was to study sustainable farming in New York with the Natural Gourmet Institute before attending the Ballymaloe Cookery School near Cork, Ireland situated on a 100-acre organic farm. This semester-long break from traditional school catalyzed much of my growth, and helped me to discover my true passions and live authentically.

While my peers began their second year of college, I found myself wandering the bustling streets of New York City with a massive suitcase trying to find my Airbnb. As busy as the city is, my cohort and I found serenity atop the Brooklyn Navy Yard while we studied and farmed on a rooftop farm called the Brooklyn Grange. Later in the week, we also explored a hydroponic rooftop operation called Gotham Greens, which provides year-long greens to the area. During my downtime, I immersed myself in the sustainable NYC food culture by popping in and out of eateries that touted locally-sourced, healthy cuisine. I soaked in this newfound freedom like a sponge, while enjoying incredibly delicious food that week.

Our last stop in the program was in the heart of Hudson Valley at a biodynamic farm called Hawthorne Valley Farm (funny enough, I had come here in 3rd grade with the Richmond Waldorf School for a farm trip!). We ate together for every meal, and for the first time in my life, I felt truly connected to the abundance of the Earth, the people around me, and myself. The tiny town of Ghent, NY, was quiet enough to let birds sing with the buzzing bees and chirping crickets in harmony. The flowers bloomed their hearts out and splashed a vibrant rainbow of color throughout the fields. All the while, we dug into the soil, learned about holistic farming through intentional practices, and cultivated a deeper appreciation for the Earth.

In one last feast from the local bounty that we helped harvest, we expressed our gratitude to the influencers of the program and set our intentions for creating more sustainable farming practices. Upon concluding our time, I reflected on my experience and journeyed home to Richmond, Virginia. Even now, I am still learning from this opening experience in waves.

But the journey was not over yet -- after reconnecting briefly with my family, I soon embarked for the biggest adventure yet: culinary school across the Atlantic.

To be continued…

Livvy Call grew up with a Waldorf School education in Richmond, Virginia, and loves learning about cultures and communities through food and farming. While she studied dietetics at JMU, her true education came through actively seeking unique learning experiences relating to interdisciplinary collaboration, community service-learning, and travel. Her passions lie in educating others on building resiliency and skills through experiential learning -- ask her about some of her adventures! Read about her tales from cooking school and follow Livvy on Instagram!

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