An Unexpected Meet at EMIS

Suzie Alexander has everything that used to be my zone of fear a few years ago: spirituality and kindness. I feared spiritual sensitiveness because it might be the root of vulnerability. I feared kindness  because sometimes, being kind equals being used. Growing up in a rat race, I have encountered many occasions when my nature encouraged me to act thoughtfully while my rationality forced me to be reckless. Attending Suzie’s lecture at the EMIS Sustainability and Peace course, discovering about her organic farming business and absorbing the philosophy of living mindfully, I felt something changed in me. Something that urged me to ask her out for an interview for Chutzpah Everyday’s podcast, a project outside of school that I’m working on. There must be something about Suzie that coated around her an indescribable vibe and attraction. And maybe, she can help me solve the lifelong dilemma of following my heart or acting by my head.

Q: Can you introduce yourself?

A: Right now I’m an entrepreneurial farmer in Tuscany, Italy. We have a 14 hecta organic farm and we are recreating a model of system whereby everything that we eat, we grow ourselves. So we have olive trees for the oil, vines for the wine, wheat for the bread and pasta spelt which is a low-gluten grain, chickpeas,…

Q: I first met you in a talk about sustainability in Israel and it’s absolutely mind-blowing for me to listen to your philosophy of reconnecting people to the land. What happened in the past that led to such a big decision of starting an organic farm on your own?

A: It was not something that happen by designed. It was a realization in myself for having a child the role of being a parent was possibly being the most important role of my life. That’s what I found at the time. I was a big shop manager with a lot of zeros on my salary and I traveled and I was very important. I was a true believer in what I was doing. I was delivering information democratically to a huge number of people. But having a child is a new chapter, and in our society, in British or American society, the expectation of successful women is that they delegate the role of rearing their offsprings to someone else.

For me money is a means to an end. But all of this extra zeros for me is not significant.

To cut a long story short, I made a very quick decision. Quick decisions can be impulsive, and I think it was rooted in a very strong gut feeling that I wanted to raise my child and that I could just quit my job and moved to Tuscany.

[…]

The project (Suzie’s yard) was not also by designed. We started with the olive growth and through the process of food production began a new series of possibilities.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on consumerism?

A: People buy relationship, and they buy experiences, and they loses out on the simplicity of giving of yourself without an expectation of return.

Q: What is the most exciting part of running an organic farm?

A: For me the most exciting part is the effect that it has on my emotional state. So the thing about farming is that it’s very hard physical work. First of all you’re not in control of when you do it. You have to have humility. You have to be prepared for your day to be determined by the weather, by external conditions. But it’s not only about following the weather forecast. It’s also about getting in tune. It’s not really something you can convey with word. But when the volunteers start to go to the field with me in July at 4:30 in the morning. First of all they see the lights, then they realize the complete silence and the beauty of it. So you start your day in a spiritually very profound place, and then you work really hard, you sweat to an extent that your sweat is transparent. So it’s like an incredible detox.

And this natural context necessarily, after a period of time, creates humility. And humility allows you to do an enormous number of things, much more than the arrogant attitude in Western capitalism which is all about me, me , me, and I am the best, and self-promotion.

Q: What about the unsexy part of having an organic farm?

A: The most unsexy part is living in a country where the political relationship between the states and the population is one of total control. So there is very little room for innovation, and very little flexibility. It’s really a shame because it’s dishwashing people, it’s taking all of the lights out of them. They’ve been in the battle so hard, including farmers, to be able to do what they need to do in order to make their business …(11:39).

Q: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your journey?

A: (21:42) Everybody has a role. And if your role is to be an inspiration then you need to be an inspiration. I’m very worried about the quick rise and the way that so many people are helping obviously (21:50-22:03). I don’t think that there’s anything in my life that prepares me for the possibility that hatred could be more prevalent than kindness. I don’t believe that there are more negative people than positive people but I see the positive people in the state of petrification where they don’t really know how to react, and so they need people to show them that being kind is better. Because we live in such cynical time. I see people frowning when I say “spread the love”. And they’re like “What, are you odd?”. And I’m like “No, just think about it, just open your heart to the concept that when you do something good, and Loop La Loop has been a proof of this for me, you touch a thousand people. And those thousand people find the energy to touch next thousand people. And it’s so engaging and it’s multiplying at an exponential degree.

***

Coming back to Vietnam last summer, I was confused when people asked me: “What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned studying abroad?”. To be honest, I don’t know. But there’s something certain. That the person I am today was shaped tremendously by people whom I met. That my principle to which I lived according was the outcome of exposure to wisdom and diversity. That now matter where I go, I just wish to do just that: uphold my curiosity and keep being inspired by people. To join my journey, you can listen to this podcast here.

 

Written by: Trang Stan

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