Build a Herb Spiral


Photo by Adobestock/terezqua

I didn’t expect to be back in south Louisiana in the dead of summer. The itinerary that Brittney and I planned last year kept us far away from heat and humidity—we should be almost to Canada at this point. But, living on the road, you learn to become adaptive, accepting what may come and making quick yet thoughtful decisions.

After spending nearly six months in the western U.S., from Colorado to California, we made the decision to head home, back east. Our choice was pretty easy, considering what we've witnessed. Being from the South, we're used to rain and humidity, but having been out West many times before to hike and backpack, we understood how arid the area is. However, traveling the region and analyzing it through the lens of a farmer, not an outdoor enthusiast, unveiled the scale of what it takes to obtain water to grow food there. And that shocked us.

No matter where we were, the theme was the same: folks were always keeping a watchful eye on the region’s most precious—and rarest—resource. How much water will farmers take upstream? How much snow did the mountains get this year? When will it rain? With climate change looming overhead, threatening to dry up already dwindling water supplies, these questions keep farmers up at night, consumes morning conversations around cups of coffee. It’s on everyone’s mind.

It takes a lot of work, from irrigation ditches to water rights, to make even the smallest operation run smoothly. In New Mexico, one of our hosts explained how centuries old irrigation ditches in the area, called acequias, were in danger of running dry. Saving his community’s water rights consumed him—and rightly so. It takes resourceful and involved people to grow food in such a dry and harsh environment. I can say without a doubt I appreciate those folks more than most. Needless to say, as first-time farmers, I don’t think either of us were prepared for the challenges of starting a farm in a place that has so little access to water.

Like I said, life on the road demands adaptability. It’s a quality I’ve come to embrace. We were eventually able to plan more work trades on the East Coast. For six weeks, we’ll be helping out on a biodynamic farm in my adopted home and Brittney’s home state of Tennessee, smack between Chattanooga, Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains. That’s ultimately where we’ve decided we’d like to settle. We concluded it’s got the perfect mix of everything we’re looking for: affordable land, ample natural springs, plenty of rainfall and a long growing season. Now all that’s left is finding a parcel of property. 

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