This past summer, I was fortunate enough to spend two months in Patagonia — no, not the Patagonia, but rather a small town in southern Arizona near the border of Mexico. As I made the trek from South Carolina to Patagonia, I had plenty of time to contemplate the fact that I would soon be living in a town populated by about 800 people, not a single one whom I had ever met. Mile after mile, I became more and more nervous and continually asked myself, “What am I getting myself into?” Little did I know at this point that what I was getting myself into was the most influential experience of my life.
Spending two months at Deep Dirt Farm Institute was a life changing experience for me. I had never heard the term “permaculture” until I looked through the internship opportunities offered through Borderlands Restoration, and neither had my friends or family. Every time a family member asked me what permaculture was I would reply, “It’s this sustainable farming kind of thing.” But Kate Tirion, the founder of Deep Dirt Farm Institute, showed me throughout the course of the summer how naïve my definition of permaculture was. She taught me that permaculture entails a relationship with the environment. Permaculture can mean many different things to different people because no two pieces of land are the same.
One of the main things that Kate wanted for me and the other interns at Deep Dirt Farm to gain from our time with her was a true understanding of how to read a landscape. Kate would always remind us that no work should be done on a piece of land until you have taken the time to walk the land and truly get to know it. Without doing so, it is impossible to know what will be most beneficial for both yourself and for the land.
I could go on and on about the things that I learned this summer from Kate and her colleagues, but such a task would require the writing of a book. I encourage any person looking into the opportunities offered by Borderlands Restoration not to be turned away by the small size of Patagonia, Arizona. The people that you will meet are so incredible that I can guarantee that you will not encounter a single dull moment, as long as you are willing to push the boundaries of your comfort zone.
Lastly, I will say that I was able to learn so much from Kate because I was simply willing to pause and listen. For some of us this is hard to do, but I encourage anyone going to spend time at Deep Dirt Farm Institute, whether it be for a week, month, or a year, to find your inner “sponge” and be ready to soak up every story or lesson that Kate shares with you.