Finding purpose and answers on the farm
Last updated 10/31/2023 at 9:51am
Annie Cohen sat in her dorm room at Washington State University between classes. She wanted to share her high school experiences learning and growing through Seed to Table (S2T) farm and the Sisters High School greenhouse class. She transformed from a student without direction to a focused young woman with a plan to pursue a career in environmental science.
Everyone has moments, months, or years when they're not sure how to move forward in life. That sense of stagnation and fear can be paralyzing. What Cohen needed was getting her hands in some good, clean dirt while working alongside a skilled and dedicated farm team willing to be mentors for the next generation. Annie's story exemplifies that concept.
During her junior year Cohen admits she wasn't in a great place mentally. On the first day of a 2022 S2T farm internship, she felt a shift, and things began to get better.
"For me, I'll always say that Seed to Table changed my life. On my first day, I was so happy, and I was consistently happy that summer. It opened my eyes to what I can do for my community. I learned that if you have the ability to do good, then do good. I loved working and playing in the dirt," she said.
Life lessons were as abundant as the crops growing in the fertile fields on the farm. Just becoming a part of a natural environment with its challenges and rewards had a positive impact on Cohen.
"I learned that life can be unexpected. Working on the farm was a good example of that fact. I remember one morning; I was saying hi to the cattle on the farm and there was a surprise. One of the cows had a newborn calf. You never knew what was going to happen. That's good preparation for the real world, whether it's challenges or good things," said Cohen.
Watching the farm team deal with adversity was empowering.
"Lunch was one of my favorite times. We gathered under a tree and talked. Usually, I sat back and listened. I wanted to be just like them when I'm their age. They've already done so much good in the world and in Sisters too," said Cohen.
The S2T farm team consists of six farmers, 10 part-time educators, two full-time staff, and 60 volunteers.
Before she applied for the farm internship, Cohen was introduced to S2T through a Sisters High School greenhouse class field trip. The greenhouse class is taught and managed as a program of Seed to Table.
"I fell in love with the farm and wanted to be there all the time," she recalled. "I met Audrey Tehan and Hannah Joseph that day. At the end of the tour Audrey asked us if anyone might be interested in an internship or getting out on the farm working in the dirt. I put my hand up right away. I knew it was where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do."
That decision had a direct impact on her future plans.
"At the time I really didn't want to go to college," she said. "I thought I'd take a year off and find myself a bit. But immediately after my internship was done, I knew I wanted to work with the environment. I didn't exactly know how but I knew it was what I wanted to do."
Cohen is currently studying environmental and ecosystems sciences. Her long-term goal is to go to law school and work in an urban setting. Cohen plans to visit the farm whenever she's home from school. She continues to use the women she met on the farm as role models and inspiration to make a positive impact in her own unique way.