It assuredly is a farm; there are annual row crops, grazing animals, big compost piles. But that doesn’t mention White Oak’s epic, yet somehow immaculate, permaculture design; the irrigation system that gravity feeds the farm beds from water-catchment ponds which welcome swimmers on hot summer days; or the unbelievable plant diversity that blooms all season in the form of outrageously beautiful flowers, medicinal herbs, unusual fruits, and pollinator-feeding beneficial insects.
It’s also definitely an education center, as we’ve led a myriad of kids programs this season from preschool, to school visits, to a week-long summer farm camp. Being a part of these programs sheds light on kids who get to see food growing and who harvest their own lunch from the land for the first time. Their energy is totally transformed with awe and wonder upon experiences such as stepping into the forest for a hike or eating a healthy, fresh meal that they find they actually really like.
What I find particularly incredible is how these layers of highly functional systems and touching experiences weave together to create the White Oak enterprise. Looking at it from my perspective as an intern, I’m getting to learn about sustainable, regenerative agriculture; I’m gaining skills from teaching to homesteading to animal care, I’m getting a crash course in rural living and the resourcefulness that it necessitates, and so much more. The life I’m enjoying here only exists the way it does because of so much energy that has come before me. The buildings on the land I spend time in every day were built by folks that were part of natural building workshops who now have skills to create their own structures. The trees I’m eating delicious fruit from were cared for by interns from many previous years who can now grow their own food. The beautiful forest that I live in has been host to eco-forestry workshops, sending more forest stewards out into the world. All this energy from the past has gone into creating this ever-moving and growing place, continually fed in the present, and spreading more beauty throughout the world in the future.
So when I think about White Oak, as a farm, an education center, a petting zoo, a permaculture paradise, a rich forest, a heartful community, it seems that in all its multi-layered, multi-functional magic, this White Oak organism’s aliveness rests in the kinetic energy of what can happen when people join together to create an abundant, thriving world.