Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Confessions of a Former Farmer

JessieI didn’t come up with the title myself; partly because I am never really convinced that I won’t go back to farming one day. A more truthful title may be, “Confessions of a Farmer Working in an Office”. Not quite as catchy, though.

I have stepped out of the field and into a classroom, office, or lab at least a few times since I first started farming. It always surprises me when I am putting together my resume and it looks as if I had the whole thing worked out. That I was on some natural trajectory from farm internship to graduate school to Extension research to starting and managing a family farm is far from the truth. It may not have been the direct route to Farm Aid, but it feels like the perfect fit.

I started at Farm Aid this past April—a month that I usually associated with spending more time outside than inside. After weeks of seeding 1000s of flats of scallions, broccoli, spinach, beets, and more in the greenhouse, the focus would move outside and the endless hours of field prep would start. Spring was always a time of energy and optimism. And, although I am now inside, I am invigorated by my work as the new Farmer Resource Specialist. Instead of growing fruits and veggies, I am cultivating new ideas, projects, and relationships with the goal for expanding the impacts and reach of the Farmer Resource Network. Sustainability and viability are still at the heart of my work.

I still check the weather every day. When it rains, I can’t help but think about the top corner of the main field that would flood. When it’s the first warm, sunny spring day, I remember how my arms would feel after what would have been a long day of hula hoeing an acre of brassicas and lettuces. It may have been a faster job with the tractor, but not nearly as enjoyable as the camaraderie of kicking out that first big weeding job together with the new field crew.

I know that my work at Farm Aid will allow me to help other farmers achieve their goals. I will be able to impact the farming communities that I have learned from, shared ideas with, celebrated success, and shook off defeat. I will join new farming networks as well as the resource organizations that are here to help. Spring is still energizing and full of optimism!

I will always identify myself as a farmer. But, come August when the temperature hits 95 and the humidity’s holding steady at 75% and tomato harvest is peaking, you won’t hear me complaining about working in the air-conditioned office. But I will be thinking of all my fellow farmers out there and doing the best I can to help you succeed and thrive.

Feel free to contact me if you have ideas. Or just need to commiserate about squash bugs and powdery mildew.

Happy Spring!
Jessie

You can reach Jessie at jessie@farmaid.org and learn more about the Farmer Resource Network at www.farmaid.org/ideas.

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