The 149th Real Farmer Care recipient is Bari Zeiger of Healing Poem Farm @healingpoemfarmny in Java, NY. Bari writes, “I am growing my farm with the mission of healing the relationship between Mother Earth, each other and the Self through ecological, human-scale agriculture. The farm is inspired by my Grandma Lila's legacy of healing through poetry therapy at an AIDS treatment program. The farm is an ode to her deep passion for food and cooking, the pursuit of knowledge, and poetry and healing.
In college, I fell head-over-soil in love with farming while interning on a nearby organic farm. I also found a love for grassroots advocacy and community organizing. After graduating, I apprenticed in NC where I grappled with the socialized notions about farming not being a "real career option." The season was physically, mentally and existentially exhausting and gratifying.
The next several years, I managed a non-profit farm, joined the Northeast SARE Administrative Council, and became active @youngfarmers as a chapter leader and Federal Policy Committee member. Isolated and lonely, I sought community and socialization through an ever-increasing load of organizing, advocacy and volunteer commitments. At the same time, I got to build relationships with brilliant, bad-ass farmers committed to economies of collaboration.
In 2019, I started seriously seeking land to start a farm on my own. Soon after I became the steward of 11.5 acres in NY, COVID-19 reared. My overcommitments and anxieties of becoming unemployed at the end of the farm season took a toll.
After the growing season, I worked on a congressional campaign and immediately after at an ag non-profit in Western NY to move closer to my farm, partner and friends. I experienced burnout as I traded work in the field to work behind a desk to save the capital required to build up the infrastructure and soil on my farm- and have health insurance.
With support from my partner and seeing other farmers being transparent and honest about mental health, I began removing commitments from my plate. The farm has made incredible progress, and I’m closer than ever to farming full-time.”