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Farm intern says experience made her 'a better person'
CARES FOR ANIMALS – Intern Barbara Morrison holds Sadie the sheep as Sadie awaits her turn to get sheared on Shearing Day at the farm on June 20.
SUMNER — Intern Barbara Morrison says that over the past two summers while living and working at A Wrinkle in Thyme Farm she's learned far more than she ever imagined.
Morrison is a third-year student at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. This is her second year interning at the farm – though for Morrison, being at the farm is more than just an internship.
At A Wrinkle in Thyme, it's more like being part of a family, she says.
"Marty and Mary Ann are amazing people," she said, of the farm's owners.
When asked what brings her to Sumner, she responded, "It's actually a long story."
At Hampshire, Morrison studies Ethnic Gender Sexuality Studies through the lens of narrative.
She said while taking a class at Smith College – part of a five-college consortium that includes Hampshire – she studied "lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans history and [learned] about the 1970's lesbian-feminist back-to-the-land movement."
"I found it very inspiring, so I looked into the idea of staying on a lesbian commune," said Morrison.
Through networking, Morrison said she discovered A Wrinkle in Thyme Farm, one of "about 100 women and lesbian lands that still exist in the U.S.," and immediately contacted Marty and Mary Ann.
Not only is A Wrinkle in Thyme Farm the closest farm of this kind to her home in Massachussetts, Morrison also "just had a gut feeling that I should come here" – and she's glad she did – though she didn't know what to expect.
"But it was awesome," she said of her first experience on the farm. "I got really into the farming piece of it, though that wasn't my intention originally," she added.
In the end, Morrison learned more about farming than she ever thought. She eventually fell in love with the animals and learned that she really enjoys the pace of life on the farm, she said.
Her initial focus, she said, was simply "to find lesbian elders."
"I wanted to find mentors ... that could relate to my experience and learn my extended history by learning about their lives and experiences," she explained, "and that has been a major success."
In addition, Morrison has learned about different aspects of farming and especially how to care for the animals.
"I do a lot of watching the animals. I am usually the one who notices that [an animal] is limping, or not eating, or looks like they might be anemic and need some medicine," she said.
"I deal mostly with outdoor grunt work, like bringing in hay," she said, though recently, Morrison helped build an outdoor clay oven, known as an Earth oven, which she really enjoyed.
"We make pizza and bread in it," she said. "It was a really cool process. I never used concrete and built before."
She's even taken an interest to needle felting from lambs wool and learned how to boil maple sap into syrup, she said.
"I even learned how to butcher and gut a chicken," she added. "I can now gut a chicken in under a minute!" – a task that neither she, nor her parents, ever imagined she'd do, she said.
When asked if owning her own farm some day was of any interest, she responded she might like to try it. "Last year I was really fired [up] about going into farming," she said, "but I am not sure anymore."
"Farming is not easy," she admitted.
Morrison loves the farm, and in some ways it's helped her to understand her studies, she said.
"Basically, 'through the lens of narrative' means that I do mostly political and theory-based studies," she said. "I also try to encompass a bit more of a human factor ... not just reading dense academic material, but also thinking of people's stories."
A large part of what she's learning, she said, is not necessarily from the farm, but from Marty and Mary Ann.
"Their stories help me to have a new perspective on what I'm learning," she said. Not to mention that she now thinks more about the importance of organic lifestyles and sustainable, diversified farming.
Morrison is also impressed by Marty and Mary Ann's efforts to create community.
"That's important to me, because I feel like in some ways, ethnic, gender and sexuality studies is a study of communities, in a sense that I study the hierarchies reproduced in communities, along ethnic, gender, racial lines," Morrison explained.
So to be in a place where Morrison can see community being built is important, she said.
She said a lot of people don't understand how her self-defined major relates to farming, but it's evident that for her, being on the farm means more than just caring for the animals.
"It's an emotional investment," she said.
This summer, Morrison got to the farm in May, extending her stay by a couple months. Last summer, she lived on the farm from mid-July through August.
Her last day on the farm, though only indefinitely, was this past Saturday.
She said while she doesn't plan on interning next summer, she will still visit. She plans to volunteer alongside Marty and Mary Ann at the Common Ground Fair, September 21-23 in Unity, ME and during one of her breaks from college.
Morrison said she's not exactly sure what she plans to do after college graduation, but one thing she does know is that everything she's learned at A Wrinkle in Thyme has made her "more conscious, thoughtful and knowledgeable."
"It's made me a better person," said Morrison.
Marty and Mary Ann agreed that the experience has been well worth it.
"We only have wonderful things to say," said Marty, smiling. "Plus, she found us, and that was awesome," Mary Ann added.
"We hope Barbara will come back often," she said.