Marin County can be a small place. A few years ago, Jenn Moreshouse, who was volunteering with us throughout the pandemic, told the Soil Centric Team that she’d heard about a Marin family that was moving wholesale to the Catskill Mountains so they could commit themselves to regenerating degraded land. We’ve followed the Cohen Family’s story with interest from day one and want to thank Alexis Cohen for sharing their story with us.
Soil Centric (SC): We are so excited to learn about your family's path to regeneration! How about we start by learning how you first heard about regeneration. Was it a gradual awakening or did something just click?
Alexis Cohen (AC): Our path to regeneration was a slow burn through the generic sludge of collective denial followed by a monumental kapow — a startling reckoning.
For us, this is how it unfolded.
We were lucky to have been living in Marin County, California, surrounded by comrades who were riding waves, climbing mountains and digging their hands deep in the dirt. You know, life’s finer things. Many were still hellbent on reaching for and upholding the highest ideals from the Sixties and this gave us much light through the deceptive and pervasive groupthink happening on a broader scale in our country during the past decades.
Life went along swimmingly for decades — we thought we were doing enough: giving a manageable lump of our earnings to environmental groups, calling our congresspeople, helping create a farm-to-table garden and an educational farm. Flash forward to April 2020. The COVID pandemic was now igniting across the planet and within a few short months we also found ourselves fleeing from the crushing choke of wildfire smoke. We had to evacuate our temporary home on the coast three separate times during the megafires — carrying our mattresses, animals and most treasured possessions to our van in the opaqueness of night. We weren’t the only ones.
This was the point everything corroded around us.
Radical change found us.
We decided to uproot our lives on the West Coast — selling almost everything we owned — to pioneer our way across the country to start a regenerative farm in upstate New York alongside dear friends who make us feel really good on the inside.
SC: Was everyone in your family enthusiastic about making the big move to the Catskills?
AC: Not exactly.
In theory, yes.
Each, in our own way, has found a personal connection to environmental work. Gabe, as a longtime educator, was focused on deschooling the next generation so they could think outside of the box — literally — by teaching the hard subjects through real-life experiences well beyond the classroom walls. I spent my young teenage years on O’ahu, running around the island barefoot, swimming in secret coves, collecting red ginger buds to wash my hair in waterfalls and eating papaya and lilikoi foraged from neighbors’ yards. So, farmlife with its profound connection to nature seemed promising. Myles came along with the innate gifts of patience and loyalty — an animal whisperer of sorts. So, he was in. Aiden is very vital in his physicality — growing chemical-free, nutrient-dense foods was his siren call.
But life is never a straight line.
After spending one year in New York, Aiden was pulled back to California to be with his sweetheart and crew of good friends.
No one could blame him.
He flew the nest.
We miss him.
But his happiness is our happiness. He is living his adventure.
SC: The novelty and promise of farming can be super energizing but it must also be challenging (In the middle of a long winter perhaps?) What sustains your family and your regenerative vision?
AC: Rhythms support us.
We can’t overstate this.
Part of farming is surrendering to something much bigger than ourselves.
In that, we find seasonal change.
So, we lean into the sweetness of each season. In spring, it’s the awakening. In summer, it’s the juicy abundance. In fall, it’s the deepening. In winter, it’s the dreaming — our hopes for the new year.
We also create strong daily routines with both adequate activity and rest — which, in a way, comes naturally when you care for animals.
Paying attention to the flow of the day along with the lessons of the seasons — this is how we do it. Deep grooves help us create river banks for our energy.
SC: What have been the greatest rewards on your regenerative journey so far? What have been the greatest challenges?
AC: The greatest rewards on our regenerative journey have been the exhilaration and great privilege of working with the active ingredients of life. We are anti-austerity as a policy but we take this very seriously.
We see ourselves as stewards to something vastly miraculous — as members not center.
Each day brings challenges: arctic vortexes, shortages, infestations, stony fields, mold, rot.
Each day brings nearly unspeakable joys: snow-kissed baby pines, the whip of a sunset sky, sunshine as free alchemy.
Life as we once knew it pales in comparison.
You are humbled.
You are exalted.
What is dependable is the moment you decide to step into it you can be assured it will bring you to your knees.
SC: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given to yourself starting out? What advice would you give to other families who are concerned about climate and want to help create the conditions for our Earth to regenerate?
AC: Advice to our younger selves:
Trust your instincts.
Stick with your people.
Ride the change.
Feel the abundance.
Advice to others who are concerned:
Refuse to sand off the edges of reality.
Listen to your fear, sadness and anger — they are trusted messengers.
Rail against and confound staid sensibilities.
Believe in the elevating power of friendship.
Get ready for the ride of your life.
You will not be alone.
To follow the Cohen Family on their regenerative journey, support their farm and see what resources inspire them go to Tomorrow is a Place.