Song volunteers at farm, escapes everyday stress

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Nestled in the middle of a long and winding road, a rusted metal gate lies hidden. The scent of hay is clear, but another smell is not quite as familiar. Far from the pollution and commotion of everyday city life, the air is crisp, almost clean on this late autumn morning.

At a quarter after nine, a white truck pulls up to the unassuming gate.

From the passenger side hops out Yang Song (11) to open the locked gate. Explaining he was a little late because he had been trying to get some wood beams from Home Depot, Song then rides past the gate along a dirt road. The truck stops briefly as a group of sheep scurry along the pathway.

The end of the unpaved road reveals a old wood structure and a giant metal bed among the many other smaller, scattered objects like buckets and PVC pipes.

Out of the driver’s side emerges the owner of the 20-acre plot of land, Di Wu. With the help of Song, he unloads the materials that will be used to build and rebuild parts of a shed. Half of it is partially built; the wood beams will be used to build the other half.

Currently only a basic frame, the shed has a long way to go before it is done. One day the shed may be used as a weekend escape or a storage space. Until then, though, it functions as a place to rest and drink tea.

Weekend mornings spent on the farm are a nice break from the humdrum of school and SAT study sessions, Song said.

“It gives me something to look forward to during the week,” he said.

Song became interested in volunteering after visiting the farm with his friend, Wu’s son. The work, although strenuous, does not feel burdensome. This is largely due in part to Wu and Song’s relationship.

“It’s like working with your dad, it doesn’t feel like a job,” Song said.

Next to the shed-in-progress is a group of citrus trees. The budding plants are wrapped in a protective circling of wire to prevent the sheep from eating and destroying the trees. It is not, however, so much a preventative measure as it is a necessary one.

Song spent previous weekends at the farm planting them and then setting up the irrigation system out of PVC pipes.

He does not have any prior experience when it comes to the tasks on the farm so many of Song and Wu’s projects are completed with the assistance and instruction of various how-to YouTube videos.

Having purchased the land a year ago, Wu has much to be done before it becomes the farm he envisions. Beginning in early August, Song’s help has aided Wu greatly in building the farm up from scratch.

Crows circle above the overcast sky as Wu and Song trek up the path to a large white tent. It is enclosed by a fence that houses the farm’s chickens and ducks.

Before volunteering here, Song had never been to a farm, let alone seen a chicken lay eggs. Now, Song counts collecting the eggs as one of his many duties.

Wu also had a limited amount of experience with farm duties. He was once a biologist working on industrial enzymes, which are used in various industries like pharmaceuticals, chemical production, and biofuel; the experience inspired him to purchase and run the environmentally friendly farm.

Song feeds the chickens and ducks with spent grain. Spent grain uses leftover hops from local breweries.

Most of the resources and materials, like the chicken feed used at the farm, are locally produced and sustainable. From the fruit trees to the chickens, Wu said he hopes his farm will be as ecologically sustainable as possible.

For now, the farm is a place where the loudest things are your thoughts and your only worry is whether or not you locked the gate so the sheep don’t roam away.

It’s a staggering difference in ambiance when comparing the stressful pace of school and the hours he spends volunteering at the farm but Song said he enjoys the balance of it.

Not many students would wake up early on Sunday mornings to drive almost 20 miles to Ramona and Song’s willingness to do so is a reflection of his easygoing personality.

“I find happiness in my work because I feel like I’ve achieved something by contributing,” Song said.