It has now been about a year since I uprooted my life in Portland and moved a couple hours down south to Eugene for my grad program. Part of me wants to design public urban green spaces. Another part of me wants to just focus on residential projects. And another part of me wants to build my own version of Zenger Farm – a place that is part working urban farm and part education center.

While I wait for my future path to become clear, I have been experimenting with places I can fit in today in Eugene. One of the places I have invested perhaps the most physical and mental time in is the university’s Urban Farm. It’s been about a year since I started volunteering and this term I have been an employee working with a team of students, helping them learn to farm.

I have days at the farm when a group of students helps me transform a patch of unused grass into rich, fluffy rows of raised garden beds. Those days are the best. We are out there working hard together and we can see this amazing end product when we are done. I can share that with them – the understanding that labor is something to respect and honor.

And then I have other days when it is painfully clear to me that my students will be graduating from school in a few short weeks. I field questions about the easiest way for them to complete an assignment, or debate answers to a test that would hopefully help them squeeze another 1% out of their grade. I hear groans when I say we need to weed beds and people complain they are bored when we are planting tomatoes.

When I have days like those I wonder why I’m doing this. Maybe there is someone who could take my place who wouldn’t mind those days. Maybe there is someone who would be an easier grader or wouldn’t mind leaning on shovels more than shoveling. Is this class about hanging out and taking it easy in the sun? Or is about learning something everyday and putting in a good day’s work?

I feel torn about my relationship with a place I adore and this feeling like I don’t actually belong there. I think of urban farming in terms of production, learning about the land, working hard, and structure. The work doesn’t always wait for you to feel like doing it and the weather doesn’t participate more times than not.

So where does that leave me? I go back and forth multiple times a day. Maybe I can’t give the students there what they want, and vice versa. There is a saying that we plant more in a garden then just seeds. And I have a feeling if I had just stuck to just the seeds it wouldn’t be such a hard decision for me to give up on it.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson