Another Excellent Personal Statment By A Schuler Scholar
It took Julio along time to write this essay. Perseverance paid off. He wrote a number of other essays on a few other topics, but this story kept coming up in discussions with his coaches and counselors. Since then, Julio has been profiled in a local magazine for his work at the farm. He is currently a sophomore at Colgate University in New York State. My biggest advice, write what you know.
The basil, beets, and beans greet me as I make my way across the farm to the shed where I begin my first task of the day: take out the white board. I decide to take the middle path back, so that I can pass the sugar baby watermelons that my crew and I planted. There they are, small and almost ripe. I remember planting the bean-sized seeds just a month ago. I think it’s amazing to see the kind of fruit a farmer can reap with a little patience and hope. Hope, because we don’t use any harmful fertilizers. We let nature take its course, the way it should be. The breeze in the air makes their leaves move as if they are acknowledging me, and I think about how well they are going to sell at our next farmer’s market, where the bridge between the consumer and the producer (something our country lacks right now) is built. There is no fine print, especially not at the farmer’s market where I work. We set up literally just outside the farm’s gate. I’ve never been to a grocery store where I was able to meet the person who handled my food.
Now, I’m not the kind of person who only buys organic foods that are in-season and who avoids any kind of fast food place in order to boycott the conventional food system (at least not yet), but I am passionate enough to have spent three of my summers working on an organic farm that has provided me with the opportunity to speak to low income families about the importance of local fresh food and to be living with a dad who has raised a turkey, a goat, rabbits, and chickens in my backyard. The latter two continue to occupy my backyard. As I continue down the middle isle, I pass the cucumbers that I can tell got up early to fight off cucumber beetles. I help them out by removing and killing some with my hands. That’s the thing about organic farming; although it can be time consuming, it makes the farmer get to know and work with the plants intimately. I like that. I like knowing how my food is grown and what is on it.
The breeze picks up the strong smell of dewy cilantro from the bed opposite the cucumbers, and its scent reminds me of the revelation I had a couple weeks ago regarding organic chicken farming. Before my eye-opening experience, I used to be a little embarrassed at the fact that my dad raised chickens in my backyard. I couldn’t get used to the fact that I could walk outside of my house on any given day and see a chicken pecking away at the ground. What would the neighbors think? What bothered me most was that he even went as far as to use some of the eggs, whose size and color made me wonder if my dad’s chickens were “special”, in the food I ate. I felt that because the eggs would come out a different color and the yoke was darker that my dad was not raising the chickens correctly. I thought it was unsanitary. I thought this especially because of the way he wouldn’t keep them locked up in their little coop all day (something I am strongly against now), but instead let them roam around the yard picking at the grass and bugs and not lock them up again until the evening- something I would come to appreciate a year later.
One evening, I even refused to eat what my dad had made because he used the eggs from his chickens. I left my meal at the table and started doing some individual research, attempting to find something on the internet that would support my negative position on what I found out to be organic chicken farming. It turned out that the way my dad was raising his chickens was just fine, but I didn’t say anything. I just sat back down and finished my meal.
A couple months after that experience, I had a conversation with a nutritionist who works with me at the farm. This is where the revelation takes place. We were discussing the difference in sustainable and conventional agriculture. It was then that I learned of the cruelty involved in conventional chicken farming and the health benefits of organic chicken farming. It made me appreciate the work my dad does.
Once again the breeze picks up and sends a whiff of bagels and cream cheese my way. It’s Monday. The Monday volunteer always brings us bagels. I hurry over to the tent where I put down the whiteboard and enjoy a bagel before I lead my crew in the day’s task.