Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Interview with Tristan Odekirk

Tristan Odekirk graduated the University of Central Arkansas with a Physics and Math double major.  For fun, he enjoys playing video games and reading horror novels.  Tristan intends to go to Michigan Tech University in August to pursue a graduate degree in civil engineering, and so also spends much time studying.

Tristan has worked at the farm in his current capacity for 2 years.  He had known Doug and Jenny for a while, and wanted to volunteer at the farm after they returned from Japan.  They discussed the idea of Tristan being a permanent volunteer, but he concluded he would have to be paid.  That would be difficult because of the red tape that the farm would have to go through as a non-profit organization, so together they succeeded  in making CMAP an Arkansas GardenCorps Service Site, and Tristan became a GardenCorps volunteer.  He also arranged to assist with general maintenance work for Camp Mitchell.

Tristan states, "I'm really grateful to them [Doug and Jenny] for putting so much work into making the farm into a Service Site essentially just for me."  He went on to say, "Right now I'm just trying to help Doug, who's trying to start a farm and a family at the same time, which is crazy.  I believe in him, though, because he's really smart and knows his stuff about plants."

Tristan is involved in all agricultural work on the farm, from tilling and weeding to helping decide the methods of trellising the tomatoes.  He thinks of himself as a farmer at CMAP instead of simply a farmhand because he has such autonomy in his work, which is why he is so enthusiastic about his job.  "I love it here because I get to have purpose and play at the same time.  I get to experiment with full autonomy."

As he says, part of the reason having such a large role in making farm decisions for a volunteer is so important to him is that "you learn farming by making a bunch of mistakes and not doing them again."  He feels that if he could not experiment with farming methods as much as he' s allowed to, he would not learn as much. 

As a GardenCorps volunteer, his job was not only to help with farm work, but to also "provide nutrition education with the purpose of reducing childhood obesity and to increase environmental awareness and sustainable agriculture practices."  Even though he is no longer a GardenCorps volunteer, he still enjoys teaching people about agriculture and science.  Sometimes there is nobody to work with, and sometimes there are many guests or campers helping him. 

As a great advocate of learning through experience, he teaches by getting others to work with him, and asking them questions about what the think about the process of farming so far.  He is so passionate about biological or cultural facts that he often adds some color to the work by telling people about the science and reasoning behind the sustainable methods the farm uses.

We will certainly be sad when he leaves at the end of the summer.  In the near future, we hope to have more people like Tristan working on the project!

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