Monday, September 26, 2016

Goats & Yoga

I tend to make a lot of business decisions with my heart.  This practice is not the best for maintaining profitability or efficiency at a business, and this habit has unfortunately put me in situations that did not always work out in my best interest.  Over the years, though, it has allowed me to understand what is truly important to me as a person, as a farmer, and as a Christian.  This habit has also instilled in me the desire to nurture relationships with the people who matter to me -- whether it is a friendship or a business relationship.  Now that I am running my own farm business, I have been fortunate to find that a lot of good things are starting to percolate because I follow my heart and I value relationships.

On Sunday 9/18, Harrison Farm hosted its first ever "Goats & Yoga", with the amazing Dana Bernstein.  It was a wonderful success, and I have had so much fun telling my friends about this event.  Dana is a warm & inspiring woman.  She is such an accomplished yoga instructor that she has even made this ungainly goatherd adore yoga!  We capped our inaugural class at twenty people . . . and we actually achieved that number plus eight unruly goats, the five members of the Kitty Family, a few visiting chickens, and one overly excited Bonnie Blue Pooch!  Finn Lambkins apparently thought he was just on duty as a greeter: Finn came up during registration, enjoyed some grain & attention, and then literally walked to the barn and let himself back into his pen when the yoga session started.  This proved that goats are more naturally attuned to yoga!  Dana led the yoga session in the front lawn of the farm -- with the big red barn as a back drop, goats milling about, and roosters crowing loudly.  Afterwards, complimentary snacks & beverages were enjoyed and many goat selfies were taken.  It was a very exciting day at Harrison Farm!

Inevitably, when I tell my friends about "Goats & Yoga with Dana", they want to know how this all came about at Harrison Farm.  The easy answer is that through my friendship with Dana, we found a way to combine our two passions of yoga & farming.  The more in depth answer is that my lifetime misadventures somehow conspired to bring really good people into my world that made this event possible.  Years ago, in my misspent youth, I did quite a bit of volunteer work with the Columbus Museum of Art's young professionals group.  Through events there, I met a young lady named Stephanie who was working for Columbus Alive during her time at Ohio State.  We immediately clicked, and I knew I wanted to be friends with this woman who possessed such a bright spirit.  Thanks to the Museum of Art & Columbus Alive, I found one of my most treasured friends who has stood by me through thick & thin, through struggles & joys, through losses & celebrations.  

When the catastrophe that was 2015 occurred in my world, Stephanie stood resolutely by my side through all of my struggles.  As I grappled with making huge decisions on my life & my career, Stephanie was one of the many amazing friends who encouraged me personally and offered important professional advice.  As I began booking some jobs as an independent event planner, Stephanie connected me with her friend Dana who was getting married.  Thanks to this connection made by Stephanie, I had the pleasure of doing day of coordination for Dana's wedding to her awesome husband Jon.  Although this was not the first event which I booked for 2016, it ended up being the first to fall on the calendar.  I knew that I needed an opportunity to "get back on the horse".  As a child, whenever I would get bucked off a horse, my mother always made me get back on that horse.  I hated this as a child, but it instilled in me a level of toughness as a human being.  My mother taught me that the best way to overcome a fear is to become the master of that fear.  Being an event coordinator at a venue is quite different than being an independent event planner.  Thus, I knew that the first wedding that I did on my own would be a real test for me.  It would be the professional equivalent of getting back on the horse that bucked me off.  This was half of the reason that I agreed to coordinate the wedding of Dana & Jon in exchange for getting to be Stephanie's "date" to their celebration: I knew it would test me in a comfortable situation with good people.  The other part of the reason I did it essentially complimentary was because I knew how much Stephanie valued her friend Dana.  I can never pay Stephanie back for all the love she has shown me, and thus it made me happy to help a friend she loved.

My spiritual aunt Nancy Beery always tells me to "lead with love".  By agreeing to help coordinate a wedding in return for being Stephanie's "date" to the reception, so much goodness has come back into my life.  Dana & Jon have become friends that I treasure.  They are both kind, inspiring individuals who live their lives with integrity.  The wedding was truly a labor of joy for me, as I had the opportunity to refine my skills at a wedding that reminded me of the great beauty that happens when two people open their hearts & their lives to each other.  Dana & Jon are creative & remarkable individuals who have forged even greater success as couple.  Their wedding celebration was an authentic reflection of who they are as individuals and as a couple, and this love was reflected by the warmth & joy of their guests at this wonderful celebration.  I got to meet a wealth of lovely people who are their friends & family.  Their wedding remains one of my very favorites, because it was so authentic and so full of love. Despite the rain that day, it was a beautiful event.  I managed to get soaked in the rain on three separate occasions during my efforts.  In many ways, that rain was purifying as I tested myself with a new venture.  Without rain, there are no rainbows.

Since meeting Dana & Jon, I had the pleasure of attending a couple of yoga classes with Dana -- and I loved her teaching style.  They visited Harrison Farm, and got to meet all the unruly creatures that I serve as principle minion.  I had heard of animal-therapy being combined with yoga, and after reading about a farm that did it with goats, I knew it was the perfect idea to create an opportunity for Dana & I to work together.  And since she is so amazing, Dana happily signed on for this adventure!  We had no idea if humans would sign up for this class, much less if the goats would actually behave.  Blissfully, it turned out to be an extraordinary success!  I loved having people come to the farm I adore to enjoy such a great activity, surrounded by really good people & a passel of misbehaving animal friends.  I was extremely touched that several of my friends were there: representing connections made through the Harrison Farm student assistant program, through my work in the event world, and through mutual love of animals.  It was engaging to also have new visitors to the farm who were seeing this beautiful place for the first time.  Beyond that, I could hardly believe that one of the guests -- whom I had never met before -- actually had the same name as one of my goats.  That was a fortuitous surprise that could never have been planned!

During the dark winter of 2015-2016, I spent much time searching my soul to understand who I was, what my place was in this world, and how I could make this world a better place.  The struggles of that time made me recognize how important it is to me to use the resources I have to make life better for others.  It also made me willing to stake my future on doing things that I love and that I feel have value.  I love celebrations, and I love animals, and I love teaching.  "Goats & Yoga with Dana" incorporated all those things in a beautiful manner.  It was a huge moment for me as a farmer to see these things come together in an opportunity for others to enjoy this farm that I love.  It was also a huge moment for me as a person to feel that good things were happening because I followed my heart.  For someone who feels emotions as heavy as I do, it has always been painful when my employers or colleagues have told me to remove my emotions from my business decisions.  Now that I work for myself, I am finding great reward in following my heart.  

Sustainability in farming is not just about the environment, it is also about society.  Giving visitors the opportunity to see Harrison Farm allows them to connect directly with a farmer in a comfortable situation where they can ask any question they have about agriculture.  I believe this farm can serve a valuable purpose to connect people with animals and with farming.  I am so blessed that I have phenomenal people in my world like Stephanie and Dana and Jon who support me in this effort.  I suspect if I told Virgil Harrison about "Goats & Yoga", he would smile and shake his head slowly with a beautiful light in his eyes as he said, "Are you sure about that?"  But I also suspect that my grandfather would be fiercely proud that his granddaughter is working so hard to make this farm of value to others, while also fighting to preserve the legacy of the farm he loved.

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