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Lions Roar : September 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 33 accessible to others through their own lives. It’s all valuable, and really, it’s immeasurable.” And so I set out not so much to measure Zen Center’s influ- ence as to witness its myriad forms. CHOP WOOD, CARRY WATER, PLANT SEEDS, BAKE BREAD. A crew of twelve works in pairs. One “drops” and the other “puts,” planting little gem lettuce seedlings on an overcast but warm spring day at Green Gulch Farm, just over the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. A group of third graders has just arrived for a tour with one of Green Gulch’s volunteer docents. A farm apprentice shows a visit- ing group from a community college around the fields. There’s a lot going on, but 33-year-old farm manager Sara Tash- ker is in good spirits. While we talk, she sows dill and clover seeds, readjusts the spacing on some lettuce plugs, periodically checks her clipboard, and redirects her crew as they finish each task. Her cheeks are flecked and fingertips smudged with dirt, or rather, soil, rich in nutrients from forty years of tending by Zen students. “You could work on rainbow chard,” Tashker tells an appren- tice. “They’re puny, but I think their roots are good.” Tashker’s crew comes from all over the country. Some have little or no experience with farming or Zen. Most are in their twenties and thirties. “A lot of people say, ‘I Googled Zen and farming, and this place came up,’ ” Tashker tells me. (Out of curiosity, I test this later; Green Gulch Farm is the first and second search result.) Tashker calls herself a “Zen Center-grown farmer,” since she was relatively new to farming when she arrived in 2003. She’s been the farm manager twice since 2007, with breaks to have a baby and to be head student for the 2011 fall practice period at Tassajara. Tashker’s farm work and her practice are deeply connected. In a talk she gave at Tassajara about generosity, she spoke about soil: “At Tassajara, I go to all the zazen periods. When I’m at Green Gulch, I farm,” she tells me. “But I feel like I’m completely showing up for my life, trying to serve beings, take care of the plants, people, the farm.” Both Zen Above: Ceremonial procession at Tassajara, the first Zen monastery located outside of Asia. Right: Zendo at Tassajara in the winter. Suzuki Roshi and his students forged a path for Zen in America—not as a religion or philosophy but as a constant practice, an embodied way of living. PHOTOSBYRENSHINBUNCE