Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Why We Farm: Holding On To Basil

Neysa working 2

A year and a half ago, my husband Travis and I decided we wanted to be organic farmers. Neither of us had a background in agriculture. In fact, I was probably about as disconnected from physical labor as you can get — I was pursuing my PhD. This weekly series will take you through Travis’ and my journey to own and operate our own organic farm. From a farm internship in a tiny New York town, to management positions at the largest CSA farm in the southern United States, and now our current project of running a one-acre farm in Austin, Texas, our experience has been filled with wild successes, sharp disappointments, and self-discovery. I hope our story can provide others with ideas and resources for their own farming projects–urban or rural, big or small, hobby or professional. I also hope it can shine some light on the new organic movement surging in urban spaces and among America’s young people. To me, our collective attempt to reconnect with food is a testament to the ability of youth to create, even in difficult times.

I’ve found that living in the northeast teaches you how to enjoy the moment.  It’s mid-September now–the trees are turning brilliant hues of orange and red, the sunlight is bright and soft, and the still-green grass is speckled with lemon and chocolate colored leaves. Autumn in New England might be the most beautiful place in the world, because the beauty is accentuated by a keen awareness that it stands on the precipice of a harsh, unyielding winter.  Days like today, when the temperature reaches into the 70s and the daylight lingers longer than a respectable autumn day should, beckon New Englanders to get in those last moments of sweet open air before they have to resign to winter for the next 5 months.  I certainly can’t be kept inside.  These days, just lying in the grass and looking at the sky is enough for me to be happy.  And it’s more important to me because I know I won’t be able to do it soon.


The Northeasterner’s sense of get-it-while-you-can extends to food, too.  Basil, a very tender and finicky plant, is a farmer’s indicator of the change in seasons.  At the first sign of frost (usually the first week of October), basil’s broad, green leaves wither and turn a midnight black, and it won’t make a comeback until well into the summer months next year.  New Yorkers know this, and at the market this weekend they were buying basil from me by the armfuls.  They would say they were intending to make pesto and freeze it, or just get in as many tomato basil salads as they could.  Eating in season is really nice if you think about it that way–it’s not so much about restrictions, as indulgences.  Stuff yourself with those oily, come-hither leaves to celebrate summer’s last days.


Neysa is currently farming an acre of organic vegetables in Austin, Texas. For updates on her farm, visit or follow her on twitter @farmerneysa

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One Response to “Why We Farm: Holding On To Basil”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Farm Aid and Capt. John Swallow, J. Michael Gardner. J. Michael Gardner said: RT @FarmAid: RT @HOMEGROWNdotORG: Why We Farm: Holding On To Basil (oh, how we miss basil) (from @farmerneysa) […]

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