When Michelle (Mimi) Tran’ 23 transferred to Haverford, they were worried about establishing a community on campus, especially after studying remotely during their first semester. But the Haverfarm, the College farm that integrates sustainable food and agriculture into the academic and extracurricular lives of students, has been not only a place where they found that community, but also, in some ways, found themselves.
“It was only the other day that for the first time I told someone, ‘I’m a farmer,’” said Tran. “I didn’t realize how self empowering it would be to hear myself say it aloud. There is so much historyーnarratives of violence and love, extraction and symbiosis, enslavement and liberationーthat share the name ‘Farmer,’ and I had been intimidated, if not hesitant, to identify with it. My time at the Haverfarm gave me the confidence and community to explore my relationship with land, food, and people.”
In addition to connecting to the land by working on the Haverfarm, Tran leads a physical education class for fellow Fords at the farm. In those P.E. classes, Tran makes space to honor the Lenni-Lenape people, on whose land Haverford College sits. At the beginning of every class, they lead group meditations and reflections on readings from Indigenous leaders like Robin Kimmerer (Potawatomi Nation) and Black feminists like Alexis Gumbs.
“At the Haverfarm, I found community with queer peers and students of color,” said Tran. “Raised in a white, Alabama coastal town, I didn’t realize how emotionally fulfilling a physical gathering space could be, or the weight I had carried into spaces that weren’t made for me. Stewarded by people that share my love of land, food, and ancestry, the farm hasーand continues to beーthe origin of many friendships.”
While working at the Haverfarm and developing ways to honor the land that she occupies, Tran has begun to feel more connected to the land. “When I walk through campus or the Nature Trail, I feel a relationship with the plants, critters, and creatures because I recognize their colors or I know their names,” they said. They have also had the opportunity to learn new graphic design skills when they created a new Haverfarm t-shirt.
Now that Tran has embraced their identity as a farmer, they are cultivating their agricultural practice beyond campus.
“I farm at Life Do Grow in North Philly, manning the marketstand, guiding volunteers, and managing the herb garden,” they said. “When I work the soil, sweaty and sun-kissed, I feel connected to the earthーboth Alabama and Vietnam in a weird way and Thailand to a lesser extent. There is something about the sun, being outside, and the soil that makes me feel connected to Alabama and my Vietnamese ancestors. My interaction with the land connects me to fellow farmersーthe past, present, and future ones, the people who share our food, and myself, grounded in the land that gives us life in many forms.”
It is never too late to start tending to the land and learning how to become a farmer yourself. The Haverfarm is always looking for volunteers on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.. Can’t make those days? Stay updated with the farm’s projects by following them on social media. Their Instagram is @Haverfarm and within the bio, you will find links with potential volunteer dates, a list of Black-owned farms organized by the state the farms are in, and other resources for those that would like to reconnect with the land.