This Fairytale House

by Moises Hernandez-Rivera

View from Spring Valley Farm

Disbelief, that is the first thing that I think of on most mornings. As I face the rising sun, I am reminded that I live in a fairytale. Everything is scenic here, from the fall foliage framed perfectly by my window, to the rolling hills beside the farm fields. This place has it all, trails, thickets, pine stands, spring and rivers. Spring Valley Student Farm is my home.

We are a great community, eleven-strong, we work here, we play here, and most importantly, we live here. When it’s hot and sunny, cool or muggy, snowing or raining, it is always perfect here. This place grows on you.

I moved here in January of 2018; that spring I saw my very first chipmunk, first owl and spent the rest of that year with a group of amazing people. Each of us was brought here for a different reason, some could set up solar panels, some were expert gardeners, and some were community healers–all of us tied up in a perfect union. My job was fish. I studied at a vocational high school for four years training on aquaponics, the fusion of growing plants and fish for consumption.

Greenhouse at Spring Valley Farm

Everyone here wears many hats: neighbor, roommate, housemate, workmate, we all do our part. The system of weights, however, works different here. Our tasks and weeks are very fluid; one day you’re leading tours; sometimes you’re mulching, weeding, or picking. We’re often manning the farm stand selling our produce on Fairfield Way, giving away plants, or delivering food to the Bistro, Towers, or Whitney. We run a very productive and demanding agricultural operation. We count and pick our next year’s seeds, we plant and weed our fields and tend to our own farm projects. Even the harsh Storrs winters are no trouble, with hundreds of thirsty little plants in our greenhouses, seed planning meetings and plenty of snow and ice to clear from our solar panels; we’re busy all year long.

The primary focus of the farm is education. You don’t need to be from a major in the College of Agriculture, Health & Natural Resources to be here. You don’t even have to know how to water a plant. The farm is a self-selected team of very different people. What one does not know can be taught by another, and what no one knows can be taught by our farm manager, Julia Cartabiano; she’s our queen bee! Everyone comes in with different skills, and the farm finds a way to weave those skills into a perfect blanket.

Our population is always changing, from semester to semester. Sometimes one person graduates; sometimes six people graduate. Spring or Fall, we’re ready. Everyone helps and teaches and ensures that when it’s our turn to go WOOF, join the Peace Corps or graduate, the farm keeps chugging.

As students we maintain our growth through interaction with the greater UConn community, from EcoHouse to the many clubs and cohorts, our different majors and approaches keep our gates open to any and all. From Farm Fridays to Summer Bug Week, we make sure to tap into the fabric of the community and pull from all sides: campus students, parents, transfers and commuters, that’s what makes our community so resilient and strong. Around these parts, be it through the Dean or freshmen, local farmers and residents, we make ourselves known.