The 172nd recipient is Trey Cochran, farmer at Tumbling Shoals Farm @tumblingshoalsfarm in Miller’s Creek, NC. Trey writes, “Currently I’m farming my first season at Tumbling Shoals Farm but I’ve been involved in farming and sustainable agriculture for the last 12 years. To be honest, my farming experience has been fragmented and I still wouldn't call myself a good farmer. I’m autistic and growing up I didn't have a farming background or any connection to the land or food. I didn’t have a focus or special trade and most of my time was spent being angry at everything, being extremely sensitive, and struggling to connect with people in any capacity. I was always worried if I could function in a working society or fit into any social construct. Thanks to my college years, I was introduced into the world of farming and gardening and not only did I discover a new found passion for growing but a safe place where I could find peace in putting my hands in the soil and be connected to a larger community. It's difficult for me to describe what I love about farming verbally, but if I didn't have it in my life, I would still be struggling to build connections with people and that understanding of the joy of doing good for others.
After college, I struggled to find good jobs or farms where learning was a priority, having good structure or systems and where there was a sense of accountability. It took me until 2020 when I realized I had to prioritize working at like-minded farms where, not only the ecological principles agree with me, they also connect to a larger community. I realize as a cis gender white male I have access to a lot of privileges to jump into farming compared to many, which has taught me to be humble and listen before anything else. Unfortunately I’ve worked for people who have taken advantage of that philosophy and found myself unable to say no to a lot of bad work related experiences. At this point, I’m getting back to gaining as much experience and perspectives from other farms with shared goals to get a better idea of how I want to farm. I still feel like I’m moving from one place to the next, but the joy and memories I make remind me that this is the only thing I want to do for the rest of my life.
Working @tumblingshoalsfarm is one of the best examples of what it means to care for your employees. My bosses want to ensure we’re learning as much as we can about the operation and challenge us to figure out what we want to learn. They care about giving their employees boundaries, communicating clearly and providing opportunities to do more. Working in an environment like this reminds me that a farm can feel like a sanctuary and I’m grateful everyday I can share my work with wonderful people and learn how I can be better. I’m grateful to be in a phase of my life where I can actually wake up in the morning and be excited for what work will be like for the day.”