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Veterans Conservation Corps Testimonial

My Journey though Veterans Conservation Corps

From the Maintenance Field to Maintaining Fields

I’d like to preface this reflection with the fact that my time at Violet Prairie was nearly cut in half due to my contraction of Covid-19, and consequently, I missed a lot of winterizing activities at the farm. So, an already short internship was reduced to 8 weeks.

During my initial days at the farm, I was introduced to a myriad of tasks, from tractor work, mulching, tractor repair and maintenance, weeding, “unplugging”, containerizing seed, and transplanting. I was elated to be so quickly entrusted to
operate the tractor in a variety of scenarios, though I was hypercritical of my wonky lines in the garden beds (pictured below).

Through journaling, I noticed this self-criticism was a trend in each activity I participated in, and as I became aware of this, I was able to pinpoint the source of the criticism. In my previous tasks as an aircraft maintainer, attention to detail, precision, accuracy, and quality were of the utmost importance in conducting maintenance on the flight line. As I transition into a new field, my expectations for myself as an intern and/or employee may remain to provide quality results, but dirt and garden beds are less sensitive to precision than a nut and bolt holding a fuel line in place. And I could see that I needed to adjust my thinking and accept that the work I completed would look a lot different than something I’d submit in the military.

With this realization, my strides through the field became lighter, and I could take pleasure in the nuances of farm work. Over time, my criticism in my work shifted into pride and the days were highlighted with satisfaction and not scrutiny over a
mistake. On the farm, our production and attitudes were celebrated, which is unlike the managerial style presented in the Air Force’s maintenance field. One morning, Anika, Emily and I needed to pass some time before we could start work in one of the fields, and the two veterans of Violet Prairie decided to take me on a walk to show me one of the far fields that still had flowers.

The flowers that remained were gaillardias, a member of the aster family, which showcase bright yellow-orange petals with a soft brown center and a very strong, pleasant scent. I remembered the smell from my second day on the
farm, packing up seed to send off for analysis. I had only smelled the aroma, but now I could put a flower to match. And the only way I could describe the smell was that it was a French cottage located in the countryside with white linen hung up to dry. It was such a beautiful image, originating from such a tiny object. This morning was very significant because I frequently reminisce about my time in Europe, and for a split second, in the middle of a field in Tenino, WA, I felt like I had returned.