Farming like a boss

Violet Reed became executive director of a farm-based nonprofit at 23, but she still finds time to bake a next-level crumb cake and sage her room

29 Sep 2020 | 03:02

Violet Reed dreamt of getting her doctorate and becoming an English professor, but she was plagued by environmental anxiety. Recycling and being plastic-free were simply not enough. But where to begin? She launched a campaign for eco-friendly living on campus, bringing a reusable cup program to Seton Hall campus cafes and eateries. Then Reed stumbled upon an internship at a youth-led nonprofit farm, Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization, whose mission is to inspire future generations of community leaders and environmental activists. She knew within a week that this was what she was meant to do. Her days filled with regenerative farming, trash cleanups and trail building, she finally felt that she was doing her part.

Reed was reenergized, her path suddenly clear. She graduated early, spent four months at a remote botanical farm and retreat center in Costa Rica where she received her permaculture design certificate. Upon her return to the United States, she jumped into full-time volunteer work at MEVO. When the group’s executive director and founder stepped down in January, Reed stepped up.

A farmer’s work is never done
At MEVO, we work really hard. I’ll be there six, sometimes seven days a week. So when I do have my day off, it’s usually a Saturday. Sometimes it’s Sunday, but generally I’m working at the farmer’s market on Sundays.

The elusive lazy morning
I have a hard time sleeping in right now. I generally start my day around 6:30 during the week so if I’m lucky, I can sleep until 7.

Hobbies to passions
I like to read lots of books on beekeeping, because I’m a beginning beekeeper, and lots of books on organic farming and market gardening, which is the style of farming that MEVO does. But currently, I’m reading Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown.

Weekend recoup
After breakfast, I’ll probably try to do some laundry or dishes. Basically, just getting my life in order and tidying up from the things I don’t attend to during the week.

Helping hand
I’ll try to go to different friend’s houses; it’s usually people who are connected with MEVO. I’ll help them out with yardwork, work in their gardens or we’ll do something herbally. That’s my ideal day. Does it happen? Not super often recently. But I try to as much as I can.

Healthy habits
Since moving out on my own, I’ve been getting more and more into cooking. So on my days off, I’ll cook a meal for myself for the week or I’ll do some baking. My favorite thing to bake is crumb cake. I like to bake things that are a little bit more alternative; so I’ll bake certain recipes but I’ll probably swap out ingredients with things that I feel are a little healthier or local. I work at the Ramsey Farmer’s Market with MEVO, so I’m really lucky to get most of my food items from there. I buy flour from there, I can buy my nut butters from there, I can buy my butter from there. It’s really changed the level of my cooking in a great way.

Floriography
I love doing watercolors. I seem to be stuck on painting birds and flowers right now. I like to paint flowers for my friends that involve the Victorian language of flowers. Every flower during Victorian times had some kind of meaning prescribed to it, or even a phrase. These flowers were sent around to different people to send messages. So when I make a birthday card or a card of gratitude for someone, I like to find a flower that I feel suits them in that moment of time and paint it for them.

The essentials
Of course I love farming and I love veggies, but as a side hobby I’ve been learning about flowers and flower essences. Every flower has a different essence that you can take in liquid form. Usually this liquid will help to alleviate some emotional tension you might have, raise your spirits or guide you in some path in your life.

Quarantine life
I don’t really go out to eat. I prefer to cook for myself mostly, especially with veggies from the farm. But I do love to cook a meal with friends or have a potluck. To be honest, the coronavirus hasn’t really shifted my life too in that aspect much. Things at MEVO have been a little bit different, but I have been blessed because I work outside mostly. Everything is kind of the same for me and I work with a lot of my friends, so I see them every day.

Winding down
When I was in Costa Rica, we didn’t have a lot of electricity because we were off the grid. In most of the rooms we only had candles, so I’d read by candlelight. So now when I’m at home, I like to have candlelight on. Usually the last half hour before I’m going to bed I will read by candlelight, maybe stretch if I had a long day.

Clearing energy
I like to sage my room, try to create a good energy. That sounds a little bit hippie, but I just find that it’s very clearing for me.