Shortly after starting at Hindman Settlement School, I was put to task with sourcing a local feast to be prepared in honor of renowned agrarian and author, Wendell Berry. I set to work with the menu and started calling local producers to source every ingredient possible. I was out of town leading up to the feast, so arrangements were made and lists were checked and rechecked to make sure procurement went easy. I showed up on Friday morning, groggy from spending a week judging livestock at the Delaware State Fair, excited, but dreading the long day ahead.
Fast forward 10 or 12 hours spent in and out of the kitchen, checking on Chef Ouita Michel, as she skillfully prepared the feast. What a meal! What fellowship was had around those ingredients sourced from farmers, gardeners, and the community! My first sourcing event had come together superbly and the meal was nothing short of spectacular. Over 150 folks from all walks of life sat together; held conversations; learned from each other; divulged in local flavors of pork, tomatoes, coleslaw, and rattlesnake beans. I stepped back, contently fulfilled with the job I had done.
The night didn’t stop there. Shortly after dinner, our esteemed keynote speaker took center stage sharing his musings of food, agriculture, and the environment. About midway through his talk, Wendell Berry was asked, “What is your favorite part of farming?” He simply replied: dread. He went on to explain how dreading the work often leads to a feeling of great accomplishment. Berry stated he had spent long, grueling hours finding joy in what he had dreaded. The practice I had pondered many times soon turned to epiphany
In spite of my love for agriculture, there are days I dread tending to my own livestock. Sometimes the day at the office was too long. It was cold, it was rainy, or I just became too comfortable in my recliner after dinner. As I thought of my work, the dread always sunk in. Regardless, I found myself doing my chores well into the night, adrift in the human silence of the barn, listening to the goats munch, and the rabbits drink. I ended up spending time surrounded by the bleating orchestra of my passion. What I had dreaded quickly became my safe haven, my escape; my happy place. Since I had heard Berry’s profound idea, I began to realize dread might be my favorite part of life. Whether I am dreading going back to work after a few days off; checking nanny goats at 2:00 a.m. on a cold, bitter night; or writing a blog. Once you get into it, you find the rhythm that soothes the soul, turning dread into accomplishment and joy.