My name is Derrick Soares and I am from East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
After I left Ridgewood Ranch, I went to help Tim on his farm for about a month before heading home to take care of some pressing personal issues. I’ve spent the past 6 months saving money to return to the west coast, which I will be doing at the end of May. I will be moving to Seattle temporarily to build a garden for my Aunt and Uncle, after that I will see where my own two feet decide to take me.
While I was at the farm school, the most challenging thing I learned/dealt with was a dramatic re-assessment of my personal values and actions which occurred slowly and subtly over my time spent on the ranch; realizing that the foods I had been eating prior to my schooling (especially meat products) did not match my ethical or moral standpoints at all. Taking part in the slaughter and processing of over 100 chickens which we had raised for birth was no light task, and made me realize for the first time in my life, “Maybe if I’m not okay with killing these birds because it feels wrong to me, I really shouldn’t be eating them or other animals.” While I have not entirely cut meat consumption out my life, I have reduced the amount I eat of it greatly, and try to make sure the meat I eat is healthy and that the animal was treated as humanely as possible. Reforming my lifestyle to better match my moral compass has not necessarily been an easy undertaking, and there have been many challenges along the way, but it has been worthwhile.
GFS changed the way I see the world by instilling what I might call a sense of urgency within my soul. After returning home to the East Coast and seeing the conditions of the “food” that many people are eating is not only disappointing, but sometimes downright disgusting. After being able to pick a fresh, juicy, lovingly grown apple from a beautiful tree in a pristine orchard it is disheartening to see supermarkets filled with shriveled or freakishly warped and mutated fruits that look unnatural, and taste like plastic or wax. Strawberries the size of small apples that have no flavor at all. The need for lovingly, organically grown food in local communities becomes gradually more apparent with each new community I visit, especially my home town.
My fondest memories from GFS were certainly the most simple details; the misty air in the morning with a home cooked meal as the sun first peeks over the ridgeline, the hypnotizing dance of an ant colony carrying off small scraps of food, the magical intimacy of communicating with another animal through eye contact and body language. All of these things are just some of the literal magic that exists in the grasses and the winds of ridgewood ranch, never has another educational program made me feel so close to life itself, so invigorated by the beauty of life in all it’s forms, sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh.
I had always been interested in agriculture and farming growing up but never pursued anything more than odd jobs on ranches prior to my education at GFS.
When I was a child my very first dream job was to be a garbageman; I must admit, I thought their trucks were the coolest things in the world. As of now my dream career would involve environmental restoration of polluted and damaged ecosystems through planned and efficient planting, landscaping, and habitat restoration.
My words of advice to any beginning farmers, and most aspiring human beings in general is this: “Never give up on yourself. Keep pushing, keep trying. Pay attention. Pay attention.”
Ridgewood Ranch, and Mendocino County as a whole is unlike anywhere else I have been in my extensive travels of America. The sense of community there is felt almost immediately and is very welcoming. People really care about each other there, everybody I met in my time at GFS from faculty and students to townsfolk and travelers made me feel like I was extended family in a way. The amount of love and knowledge in those hills is boundless and you will be amazed what you may learn if you simply poke around. Mendocino county is the most progressive back-to-the-earth style community I have ever encountered and I look forward to visiting again in my travels.