June 9, 4-7 p.m.
Breeze Farm, Hurdle Mills
Marisa Benzle, former CEFS apprentice, returns as Small Farm Unit manager
If you want to put it in farming terms, you could say that the chicken has come home to roost. When Marisa Benzle came to the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in 2010 for a season-long apprenticeship at the Small Farm Unit, she was ”committed to not only making a career out of working in agriculture, but also to extending the message of sustainability to others,” she said.
After seeing the fields around her rural Ohio hometown replaced with housing developments, and farmer after farmer forced off the land, she was passionate about making agriculture sustainable, both environmentally and economically.
After a stint in the Peace Corps, Benzle is now working as manager of the CEFS Small Farm Unit in Goldsboro. She is an example of the new farmer training that is supported each year by the Farm to Fork Picnic. The 2013 event will be Sunday, June 9, 4-7 p.m., at Breeze Farm in Hurdle Mills.
“I learned more in that season at CEFS than I have at any other time in my life, not just from the university researchers and technicians with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but from the inspiring community members, farmers and growers of Eastern North Carolina,” Benzle says.
Benzle joined the Peace Corps after leaving CEFS and served in the Gambia, West Africa. For two years she worked with farmers, cattlemen, goat herders, bee keepers and “some of the strongest women I have ever met”, she says. “I learned as much from the people I worked with there as I taught them.”
After completing her Peace Corps service, Benzle was back in the U.S. looking for opportunities in sustainable agriculture, when she saw that CEFS was hiring a Small Farm Unit manager, the same unit she had worked on and learned so much at several years prior.
She jumped at the chance. “There were few sustainable agriculture programs I could find that shared the very important and unique quality of CEFS, the combination of world-class faculty and research with practical farming knowledge and skills that go back generations,” Benzle said.
Now, as Small Farm Unit manager, Benzle will use everything she has learned over the last few years. And she’ll be raising one very special new crop: the 2013 CEFS apprentices.
Growing new farmers and farm educators like Benzle is what the 2013 Farm to Fork Picnic is all about. Funds raised through the picnic – where chefs and farmers are paired to create special dishes with fresh, local ingredients – are used to support new farmer programs at CEFS and the Breeze Farm where the picnic is held.