Spotlight on Stewardship of the Natural World: Davis Lindsey Addresses Millbrook Community

Millbrook welcomed Director of the Growing Farmers Initiative at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture Davis Lindsey to address the community on October 6. The Yale alumnus who says that, “understanding how we are privileged can become a gateway for service,” discussed organic farming, stewardship, and the thoughtfulness and humility needed to navigate the path to a truthful life.

“I work on a farm, and what I’ve found from working on farms is pretty simple: stewardship is much more than an ecological service. Stewardship is a feeling, a farm is a place of healing, and we are not just healing the land; we are healing ourselves. In fact, the unwritten qualities for knowing how to heal a piece of land may be intimately connected with our personal sense of self,” said Davis at the beginning of his address.

He went on to discuss the critical moments in his life that forced him to reflect and make thoughtful choices about his future, which ultimately resulted in him being where he is today. He admitted that his privileged upbringing both benefited him and challenged him, as working on a farm for a small salary was not perceived as a prestigious ambition. But when his father was diagnosed with cancer and just a year to live, he realized the importance of taking risks, “and that’s when I enrolled in the environmental science program at Yale, despite my fear of failing,” he says.

He realized through this experience, and then through dedicating his post-Yale career to farming, that it’s important to “become comfortable with not knowing,” and that developing the ability to be comfortably uncomfortable opens many doors.

It is because Davis took a risk that he was able to determine his path to living a truthful life through stewardship for our world, and in his current role he works towards creating a healthy and sustainable food system each day. He referenced an African proverb at the conclusion of his speech:

“If many little people, do many little things, in many little places, we can change the world.” He went on to say, “the word “little” is important in this proverb because it recognizes humility, and to be stewards we need humility.”

Humility is a central force in making change, and in working as a community, something that Millbrook’s founding Headmaster Edward Pulling recognized at the inception of our school in 1931. Our community service program, which has been a vital part of the Millbrook experience since day one, fosters a community where no member is “too big” for any “little task." We work together daily to care for our community, and this now includes our farm, where students study sustainable farming, as well as plant, care for, and harvest crops for our dining hall. Knowing this, it is fitting that the 2016-2017 academic spotlight is on stewardship for the natural world, and Davis’ address supports the importance of our philosophy and academic focus.

After the chapel talk, the community gathered in the dining hall to enjoy a meal made from locally sourced ingredients with other farmers from the Hudson Valley region. Over dinner, the community had the opportunity to converse about the many topics from Davis’ address, and to ask questions from our guests who have “real world” experience farming our local land.

Conversations were rich, as there was much to discuss and celebrate. Thank you Davis Lindsey, and to all of the farmers who joined us, for your passion, work, and time.

Watch Davis’ chapel talk on Millbrook in Motion.