On Labor Day 2014, our farm, Kansas JAG Ltd., introduced 36 individuals to "yoga on the farm."
The idea was brought to my attention by a local yoga teacher, Cathy Hayes of Salina.
She introduced me to a couple of websites and encouraged me to do something like them (www.growingheartfarm.com and www.farmtoyoga.com). We did, and had a tremendous experience.
Typically, these “farm to yoga” events charge a fee, but we did it for free. Most of the farm/yoga gigs are on the coasts, sometimes on rooftop gardens, mass-produced by local gardeners. The produce is sometimes organic or a specialty crop such as kale or parsley. Some offer vegetarian platters or gluten-free menus.
Our farm is not organic. It does not raise kale, but we do raise corn, milo, wheat, hay, soybeans and, of course, sunflowers. Oh, we also raise cane! We don’t have any livestock unless lazy farm cats and sheepdogs count. We are a no-till operation and the sunflowers are part of our double crop rotation, following wheat. They are planted in July and they flower abundantly in the first half of September, making Labor Day the perfect time for enjoyment.
We encouraged all levels of yogis and families to attend. We advertised via Facebook and word of mouth. Our farm was prepared to have the guests spread out along a dead-end road, next to a sunflower field: Then it rained 2 inches! What a blessing in disguise.
We had several sunflower fields last year and purposefully stopped beside one on a good road prior to yoga. There, my kids helped me cut a sunflower for every guest. Almost everyone jumped at the opportunity to take pictures in front of the gorgeous backdrop.
Instead of practicing with the mosquitoes and bees with the eastern-facing flowers staring at us, we happily relocated to the grass in front of my rural home. The kids swam, we played gentle music, relaxed and did a 90-minute yoga routine. Michael Lesko of Salina led the class. He bicycled out to the farm, but the rest of us carpooled from the edge of Salina.
Just under 30 yogis were soon spread out in my yard. Once we concluded our “Shavasana,” or corpse pose (final resting pose), we met around the pool for homemade juice prepared by my daughter, Chloe Pettijohn. We also gave samples of farm-raised grain: wheat, sunflowers and milo. These were loaded into small sandwich bags and the guests took them home to use in their birdfeeders or squirrel feeders.
The guests were able to mingle a bit around the farm before returning to their homes. Several questions about the farm were answered by my family, and my friends got to spend some quality time where I work. It was a joy being together and sharing what I care about so much: the farm. The farm is my life and I love what I do.
Yoga helps me relax. It has served to make me mentally and physically stronger. The Genesis facility is where I practice regularly. These three years doing yoga at Genesis have added to my quality of life. Generally speaking, anyone who tries yoga loves it and continues to do it regularly.
Yoga on the farm was a unique way to expose people to the farm who maybe grew up on a farm or never had visited a farm. We recently held it again this Labor Day. This year we added a catered meal, a photographer and live music - and several more people.
Last year we raised the best sunflowers, ever, on the farm. Coincidence? I don’t know.
Let’s hope it brings rain every year!
Mark Pettijohn is a no-till farmer in Saline and Dickinson counties. He has an accounting degree from the University of Kansas. He has three children - Lincoln, 13, Chloe, 14, and Gareth, 15.