Vampires and a Visit to an Organic Farm by Sam Kilkenny

I’m thinking about Vampires.

Don’t ask me why.

My class is climbing up to the organic farm above UGA Costa Rica campus. We’ve hiked up through the forest to get there. ‘Up’ will never give you an accurate description. We’re on a mountain, it’s steep. But it only takes us about 5 minutes on the shortest path. When I reach the top, the forest opens up and I am met with the best view on campus. Coffee farms, mountains beyond shrouded by the clouds rolling in from the pacific.

Not a vampire in sight.

We’re here for a tour of the farm. We’re by the entrance, standing in a circle as the guides introduce themselves and brief us for what’s to come. I miss much of what is said because of the view. I wonder if there is any correlation between pace and beauty. Maybe New York City moves so fast because all the natural beauty has been removed, while here things move slow because there is so much to take in.

Now that’s an insight.

Oh, we’re entering the gate now. Our first stop is the ‘germination station’, which is not the actual name for it, but it’s what I like to call it. It’s a small greenhouse where they develop the seedlings before planting them in the field. There are also herbs and peppers growing in rows. The guides have everyone huddled in one side, they’re talking science.

I lose interest—it’s those vampires.

I wander down the rows, away from the group. I touch each plant, smell them, think about their possible names. But I really don’t have a clue. It’s better to enjoy the mystery, I decide. It’s also a pretty good excuse for not listening.

I feel like I’m in a Vampire movie. Onions hang from each post, braided together like garlic used to ward them off. The thought takes the movie I’m in down a whole new path. I look at everything as a means of survival, instead of tasty things to eat. Of course that’s what this food is, a means of survival. There is one herb unlike the rest. It’s purple, on the end of the row next to the peppers. I get the attention of one of the guide in the back of the group, and point to it. He gestures for me to taste it. I pluck a leaf, roll it between my fingers and sniff. I don’t recognize the smell, so I bring the leaf to my mouth for a taste. It’s spicy and licorice-like and better then my description makes it sound. We’re moving again and the guide asks me if I know what it is. Delicious, I reply. But he says its Thai basil.

I think we’re both right.

We move on to the field, where terraced rows of vegetables grow. I hardly recognize any of them in the ground although I’m sure I’ve been eating them for years. I need to figure out what these are in case of a vampire apocalypse. I better listen to the guides this time. 20-25% of the food we eat here on campus is grown on this organic farm. Up to 90% of all the food comes from farms within a mile radius of us.

From where I’m typing this, I can see the back entrance of the kitchen where the deliveries are made. Earlier a man in a truck came by with a load of pineapples or piña. Just now a man has arrived on a dirt bike, with bags of something, coffee or flour maybe. Whatever it is,

I’ll get to eat it later. Whenever a delivery is made, a conversation takes place. Everyone knows everyone here. No ones in a rush. It feels like neighbors helping neighbors not like a business transaction.

The farm on campus is all organic so they don’t use pesticides. Instead they grow lemon grass and (TL) and if the bugs get bad they mix it with water and spray it on the plants to keep the bugs away. Mix a bit of garlic in there and you can ward off the vampires too, I tell myself. I wonder if garlic grows in this climate. I should ask, one can never be too prepared for a vampire apocalypse right?

Just as I am about to ask, someone taps me on the shoulder and places a chunk of carrot in my hand.

What the…

I turn around and see one of the guides cut up large chunks of carrot with her knife, let them fall to the dirt then rinse them in the spout next to her. I take a bite, it snaps off into my mouth with the most satisfying noise. It’s so crunchy that I can’t even hear the guide. This carrot has become my whole world. I’m about to take another bite. No, I want to make this last. This is maybe the first time I’ve ever tried to slow down my eating.

We move on to the greenhouse. Well, what’s left of the greenhouse, until a storm ripped off the paneling on one side. The plants are more exotic looking in here and I get the urge to listen again and figure out what it all is. I’m tapped on the shoulder and this time I’m given a banana. I have to try this. Damn that’s good. I get lost in the flavor and as we go through the composting process and the hen house and finally through the banana field. Once again, I’m lost in the flavors and ignoring the science.

There are so many flavors happening just in the carrot alone. It’s complex. But when I see it added to a salad, I reduce it to one flavor. I stop appreciating its complexity. Same with the

As we leave the farm, to go back down for dinner, I realize I’ve learnt nothing about the science of this farm. But I ‘ve furthered my appreciation for food. And that should count for something.

Even if I’ll be clues when the vampires show up.

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