Future Farm Lab Travels Vol. 2: Sophie 'Finding a Balance' / To Transylvania

This blog post marks the start of a new adventure: a summer spent working in rural Romania.

It’s easy to forget how important resting is, I think this is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt since starting my adventure with Future Farm Lab.

When we set out on our Future Farm Lab adventure a year and a half ago, I was addicted to action. I worked a full-time high tempo job, I wrote regularly for The Observer’s Tech Monthly magazine, I tutored Biology and Maths, and to add to this I now had many early morning and late night Skype and in person brainstorming sessions with my new but ever closer friends, Aspen and Phoebe. I had so much input coming from so many different sources that it was almost too much to take. Never a moment’s peace, never a moment to digest all that was going on in my life. But I loved it, at least for a short period of time.

As winter drew in I realised the damaging nature of my ways, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t relax, I was exhausted and anything could set me off into an angry rant or a flood of tears.

While Phoebe and Aspen made the decision to step back from the traditional working world and concentrate on Future Farm Lab, #OurField and their own personal projects, I knew that I needed to step back full stop.

I quit my job and I went on an extended and frivolous holiday - I learnt to dive, I road-tripped around Oman, I climbed up waterfalls and jumped off cliffs, and I even climbed to the second highest base camp in the Himalayas. My mum said I came back looking the healthiest she’d seen me in years. And for probably the first time in my life I had no trouble sleeping.

"My careful balance of rest, rehabilitation and now getting back into what connected me with Future Farm Lab has led me towards my next job

"My careful balance of rest, rehabilitation and now getting back into what connected me with Future Farm Lab has led me towards my next job

Since then it’s been a careful process of trying to refine balance in my life. For the past month I’ve back in London working casually and trying to learn new skills which will enable me to spread the message of Future Farm Lab’s learnings.

While I think our Future Farm Lab work is beginning to delve deeply into the specifics of agricultural science, I am currently feeling the need to reconnect with my initial reason for working together with Aspen and Phoebe. After some careful thought, I’ve remembered that this is to: distil scientific information and find a way to communicate this creatively. Therefore, as Aspen gets to grips with the experimentation side of solving our food cycle issues, I think I have learned to put some time towards what I think my skills are: communicating science to the public.

I’m lucky to have been given the opportunity to work alongside a previous supporter of Future Farm Lab, Guerilla Science. In the past weeks I have been the assistant producer of the science stage show: Intergalactic Travel Bureau. I loved the process of connecting with the public, performers and scientists in such an active and creative way. I was so excited by this opportunity as having tried my hand at professional writing, researching, running workshops and documentary production, I had never used a stage show as an opportunity to communicate science. (Look out for future developments, the show went really well and we’re having round-up reviews at the moment with ideas for how we can develop it for the future!)

My careful balance of rest, rehabilitation and now getting back into what connected me with Future Farm Lab has led me towards my next job:  I’ll be working in science education for 8 weeks in Transylvania. Here I will be leading a team of students in order to research and quantify the effects of farming method changes on local species diversity in this very remote corner of the world.

I’m very nervous but also excited, hopefully this next project will bring me back a step closer to the world of farming that I discovered with Future Farm Lab but keep the most important aspect of my work, science communication and education, very close to the surface.

When I return from Vampire country in September I’ll be back on the Future Farm Lab writing and workshop band wagon alongside a part time Masters degree and some further collaborations with Guerilla Science, but hopefully with a more healthy balance of rest and reward peppered in there too.

Aspen and Phoebe have been incredibly inspiring following the causes that make sense to them and giving me the time I needed to find mine, I’m definitely excited about more Future Farm Lab work in the future but am relieved we all seem to have found an individual niche within the world we’d all like to work in.

And, to round this blog post up with something a little more connected to agriculture, here’s a nice simile. The balance I’ve been slowly learning to cultivate is somewhat comparable to the balance that is so evidently important in our agricultural methods. While fields that feed us need fallow years, so do our bodies and our minds. Just as exhausted fields cannot produce nourishing crops, exhausted minds cannot by any means produce fruitful ideas.