Student Profile: Lydia Hermanns farms for the greater good

In 2010, Lydia Hermanns found a job on an organic vegetable farm in Florida. She woke up every cool morning to mist and birds, and kept her fingernails dirty in the vegetable gardens.  “It was the first time I’d eaten meals where I knew where everything came from,” she said. “That was really special to me.”

Growing up in south-central Pennsylvania, she was home-schooled and raised on a vegetarian, whole-foods diet. After high school, she lived and worked on the beach, then joined the National Civilian Community Corps, doing community service throughout the United States. She attended community college in her hometown and worked on farms in Florida and Vermont before moving to Bozeman.

“I’d always wanted to come to Montana, she said. “Something about it was intriguing.” She saw Bozeman on an Outside Magazine best-of list, then found Montana State’s interdisciplinary Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (SFBS) program and landed a job at Harvest House Farm, an organic farm just south-west of Bozeman. Everything fell into place, and she moved to Montana last spring.

This semester, Hermanns is a part-time student in the SFBS program. She is getting residency and expects to start school full-time in the fall, while maintaining her extra-curricular involvement in sustainable small-scale agriculture. “I’m learning more and more about food systems, and what small farms can do is important,” she said. “We need small farms; it’s hope for the future.”

She spent her summer living and working full-time at Harvest House Farm. Now, the first plants are sprouting in the greenhouse, and she looks forward to returning to the farm when the semester ends. In the meantime, she has stayed as involved in the farm as her busy schedule allows.

In March, she went to Helena with her fellow farmers to speak in support of HB 574, a bill legalizing the sale of raw milk. “Raw milk is a complete food. It has everything you need. You could essentially sustain yourself on it,” she explained. It was her first political action, and she was inspired by the effect she and fellow bill proponents had. “It’s as easy as calling your representative,” Hermanns said.

But she does not see herself lobbying politicians or protesting in picket lines. “You’ll find me at the farm, inviting people to the farm. That will be my activism,” she said. “If there’s any time or opportunity to talk to somebody, to educate them, that’s what it takes.”

“I have a duty on this earth, and it’s to spread goodness and to spread love,” she said. “The Bible says to be a ‘steward of the earth.’ This is creation, and we’re not here to destroy it — we’re here to keep it alive.”