When I awoke one morning and realized that I had dreamt I was skipping through a bed of thick, green kale leaves, I knew that the farm life was for me. At that point I was already aware that my time on this Earth was meant to be spent digging in the ground, getting dirt in my toes, and watching things grow. I had always had a passion for growing organic foods and I had created a few small gardens on my own, but it hadn’t all fallen into place as perfectly as it did until I met Ananta and Maria. The first time I met with them for lunch at Master’s Market we discussed the farm internship and any other thoughts that came to our minds regarding life, spirituality, and serving the guru. From the sight of Ananta’s big, toothy grin and Maria’s sweet, loving gaze, I knew that these were the people I wanted to serve with and learn from. Not only did I recognize the intelligence and experience that they had in organic farming, I more strongly felt their intense devotion toward serving their guru Paramhansa Yogananda and all of the others in the community. Looking at them, I knew right away that by working on the farm I could fulfill my curiosity for learning to grow healthy, organic food, as well as develop my own spiritual practices and desire to serve under the guidance of two supportive, spiritual beings.
And that is just what happened. Actually, that is what still is happening. A day on the farm with Ananta and Maria, Christian, and my two fellow apprentices, Natalie and Carrie, is like no other day I have ever experienced before. It is part of our spiritual practice and through our service we are expanding our consciousness towards growing healthy foods, feeding a community, and serving with joy. One of my first mornings on the farm I was pulling weeds with Maria in the fresh, warm sunshine and I blissfully remarked out loud, “We are so blessed! Can you believe that some people sit in an office for forty hours a week, while we get to do this?” Maria just chuckled at my enthusiasm as we continued to pull weeds. The truth is, I wasn’t completely new to the joyful experience of growing foods, but it had never been under the guidance of such passionate and caring people, and never with the support group of a spiritual community. At that moment, I felt like a whole new world of farming had opened up to me.
The best part about waking up from a dream about skipping through beds of kale, is that if you are a farm apprentice at Ananda, you can live out that dream that very day. After a lovely morning meditation led by Ananta and Maria in Rahniket Temple, we ride in our tattered but faithful farm truck, “Ganesha”, over to one of the gardens and our day starts with a prayer to all of our seeds, crops, farm crew, and the entire community. We then joyfully close the prayer and start the harvest with a “Jai Guru!” jump in the air. Whether we begin harvesting kale, lettuce, raspberries, or basil, we all chant Aum to each plant we pick from, graciously thanking Divine Mother for her part in the growing process. There’s never a shortage of ways to serve on the farm, and before the plants are ready for harvest they require a lot of attention, pampering, and blessings. Each day on the farm is an adventure, and we are always learning something new and doing something completely different than the day before. Our methods of service range from long mornings of strenuously shoveling heavy compost onto garden beds to conducting fire ceremonies to burn naughty crickets that have been chomping on our salad greens in the greenhouse. As Ananta joyfully exclaims, “Any insect or rodent that we kill is reincarnated into a cuddly bunny rabbit, so in a way, we are actually doing them a favor.”
When we’re not assisting in the reincarnation process of crickets and beetles, our day varies to a number of tasks such as weeding garden beds, pulling Bermuda grass, planting seeds, setting up tea tape, digging up blackberries, and pruning fruit trees. To keep things more exciting than they already are, Maria will sometimes take us on a silent walk down to a pond for a rare bird sighting, Ananta will take us for rides in our beloved truck “Ganesha”, and on special occasions, we will go on river outings and cool off in the Yuba on those extremely hot, dry days. Each person on the farm has something different to offer, whether it is Carrie dancing around the basil to bless its growth, Natalie using her degree in sculpture to design a new greenhouse, or me reciting poetry to each seed I plant in the ground; we all contribute to the growth of the farm in our own way. Through Master’s blessings and the guidance of two great souls such as Ananta and Maria, we learn to truly serve with joy and deepen our consciousness every day that we are on the farm. Ananta describes our service perfectly, as he enthusiastically remarks each morning, “Let’s go play!”