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Who Are Your Farmers? — Eli

Posted by: on Oct 2, 2012

Eli Dibner-Dunlap — Vegetable Grower/Tractor Operator

Eli spends most of his days behind the wheel of a tractor, preparing fields for planting, annihilating 96% of the weed population, and grinning gleefully while hoeing, tomato staking or transplanting.  In his 2nd year at RFF, Eli is 24 years old and from Cleveland, OH.  He is tall enough to easily pick out in a crowd, and he can’t make up his mind: mustache or beard?  Eli is a recovering political junkie, a former French horn player of 9 years, and has never been confused for legendary chess player, Bobby Fischer.


How did you get into farming? It all started back in college when I asked myself, “what is the most basic function of a human?”  I thought about it and I realized, it’s eating!  So, I started to consider eating, and what people eat.  Eating seems like such a simple thing we do daily, but the reality of how that food gets to us is a much more complex process.  It’s complex because of the consolidation of land, of merging companies that operate such lands, of an increase in food processing…this all becomes a list of 20 ingredients.  I was totally confused by what was going on in our food industry the more I learned about it that I felt I needed to find a much simpler way of doing such a simple task as eating.  I decided I wanted to eat less ingredients.  Our food industry has become disturbed on so many levels — socially, ecologically and economically, that I felt like I wanted to take control of my relationship to those disturbances.  Learning how to farm has been an essential way for me to feel like I am taking part in a real movement away from our complicated, damaging food system.


What’s your favorite vegetable? How do you cook with it?  Poblano peppers. They add such a rich flavor to any dish and also a touch of heat.  I like to throw them in all soups, but a big hit is mixing them in a roasted corn chowder.  It’s a crowd pleaser.  Try it.


What role does farming play in the rest of your life?  Farming for me has become not just a job, but a way of life.  I now follow the rhythm of the farm season, including long summer days and winter spent in hibernation.  I look forward to growing food for the rest of my life, keeping a small garden for my family’s needs and to maintain my own land connection.  I recommend it to any and all.


What do you like to do when you’re not farming?  I’m currently taking an EMT class, which requires a lot of time and energy.  Health and medicine is a potential next step for me, which feels like another layer on top of my initial attraction to agriculture.  But to get real, what I love most is a well-crafted potluck, baking a crusty loaf of bread, a raucous square dance, and a sweet smelling autumn bike ride.