By Grace Beckner
Tristan Abbott makes his way up towards the barn, bundled up in a heavy jacket and scarf, eating an apple, with an occasional protest against the weather recently taking
a bitter turn.
Abbott, 25, started his position as farm manager on Jan. 6, and is the newest member of the team dedicated to maintaining Trevecca’s Urban Farm.
As farm manager, Tristan takes care of the day-to-day operations, working hands on to make sure the livestock and the plants are all healthy, doing maintenance work and assigning the student workers to various tasks around the farm. His labor allows Adkins to do the more administrative work to help grow the farm and to spread the word about what they are doing at Trevecca.
“It’s nice to work somewhere where we take this really seriously—being a part of a bigger ethical and theological understanding—which is pretty rare. That’s why this place is pretty dang special,” he said.
He received his bachelor’s degree in ecology, evolution, and organismal biology at Vanderbilt University in 2017, where he led students in caring for a community garden as the president of the Vanderbilt Food Justice group.
Before moving back to Nashville, Tenn., he was the agriculture specialist at the Institute for Human Services, the biggest homeless non-profit in Hawaii, said Abbott.
The New Orleans native was drawn to the farm manager position at Trevecca because of the relational aspect of the job, as he considers Adkins a mentor and friend, but also the overall mission of the farm and its way of doing things.
After landing the job, he arrived within three weeks, ready to work— a quality Jason Adkins, the Urban Farm’s director and a professor at Trevecca saw as dedication.
“He packed up his life in Honolulu, flew into a much uglier situation, and was excited to do so. So that says a lot about him, that he is willing to leave the Hawaiian paradise to be in cold, dreary Nashville,” said Adkins.
Abbott is known around the farm for his natural playfulness and comic relief, Adkins said.
Once inside the barn, Abbott makes a beeline for the goats. One of the friendliest in the bunch, Rosa, is extremely interested in his apple core, which Abbott hands over without question. But he has to quickly chide another goat for taking the treat from Rosa.
“He hid in a garbage can the other day, before everybody got to work,” said Adkins. “And then, when everyone got there, wondering where he was, he popped out of the garbage can to surprise everybody.”
Through his initial agriculture work while in university, Abbott realized that he enjoys exploring agriculture in a variety of ways, not just through the traditional act of farming.Some of the avenues he has gone about this has been by engaging in real world experiences such as labor organizing and community outreach, Abbott said.
In fact, one of the main reasons why Abbott has continued to pursue farm management as a career is because he cares about the greater community, as well as social and labor justice.
“Honestly, I have not enjoyed working on most farms,” said Abbott. “If I’m managing [the farm] I’m better able to control whether people are having the kind of experience that I would want to have.”
When it comes to the work he does, he refuses to take shortcuts, Abbott said.
“The quality of work we do upfront affects how much work we have to do in the long term,” Abbott said, walking away from the barn, down towards his favorite place on campus: The greenhouse.
Since being hired by Trevecca, Abbott has put a lot of time and energy into the betterment of the Urban Farm as a whole, but especially the greenhouse, where his experience, work ethic and science background has been the most valuable.
“He has already transformed the greenhouse, and made a lot of improvements around the farm,” said Adkins. “He’s got big dreams about making this a great place to learn about farming.”
Both Abbott and Adkins see the Urban Farm as a great small-market business where they can demonstrate not only how to farm, but how to farm properly, said Adkins.