Through its internship program, the farm is an outdoor academy – a training ground for farmers from developing countries and sustainability-minded Americans who see value in using hay-powered draft animals over gas-powered tractors. Interns have come here from as far as Ecuador, Kenya, and Nepal, and from all walks of American life. The job of an intern involves rising at 7 a.m. and occasionally working to dusk in order to feed the chickens, muck the horse stalls, and complete all the daily barnyard tasks and fieldwork.
One thing that drew me to Howell was the idea that lessons in historic farming might provide unique insight on important modern issues: global warming and peak oil, the safety and quality of our food, and the movement toward sustainability and self-sufficiency. Essentially, I wanted to travel back in time and see for myself if the good old days were as good as advertised and perhaps worth returning to.
I moved into Howell’s moldy, drafty farmhouse in late February. I started blogging about my daily experiences, using my laptop computer and the Internet connection available at the farm’s visitor center. In one of my first posts, when the nostalgia of it all was still fresh, I wrote this:
“Every act is intimate. Need breakfast? Fry an egg from the henhouse. Need firewood? Harvest a dead tree and then get to work sawing. Fertilizer for the fields? Put on your boots and start shoveling. I don’t think any animals get slaughtered for meat at Howell, but if they did, it would be an intimate affair, and the people who ate that animal would know where their burger came from.”