Andrea Parker (she/her)

Andrea has been farming on farms not her own for 9 years. Currently she is farming and taking part in a medicinal plant apprenticeship at Churchtown Dairy in Hudson, NY. 

Andrea started off working in finance in midtown Manhattan, but the strong desire to work outside led her to quit her job. Her farming career began with growing annual plants in a greenhouse. She didn’t like working with fertilizers and pesticides, and eventually began volunteering and then working full-time at an organic farm in eastern Long Island. She stayed there for several seasons before moving to the Catskills to continue farming upstate. 

I personally don’t want to take that financial risk (of owning a farm):

From my experience I’ve see that it’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of work. I mean the farmer at one farm that I worked, she farmed everyday for a long time, at least 12 hours a day, sometimes 15-16 hours a day she was farming.

I feel like unless you really really love it, I’m not sure what the pay off is. Just from my experience, I see that you put so much money into it and so much time and labor, and then you don’t really net much financially at the end of the season.

So for me personally, I’m not interested in taking out business loans, I’m not interested in putting a lot of money into something that is so uncertain. I don’t own any land. That farmer, she leases land and she was putting so much money into the land amending the soil, and after a few years she had to move to a different piece of land.”

It’s very tight -the money is always tight. Even at the farm in Long Island, I had several part time jobs – and it still felt tight at times. I would be using savings just to pay the monthly bills. I’m very minimal with my spending so – even last year in the Catskills, it was just paycheck to paycheck.. Where I am now, I’m making a few more dollars per hour, but it’s definitely going to be tight month to month.

I’m trying to not look that far ahead in my life. I do think that if I keep farming, I’m going to be making probably $13-$16/hour and that is not really sustainable.

I don’t know that I can farm for many more years, and then I wonder what will I do?

I thought maybe somewhere down the line, I might meet the right people – open a farm with the right people, that might be an option that has less of a financial risk.

I’m being patient, just seeing where life takes me.

At one farm, the farmer pushed herself to the point of exhaustion, as most farmers do. I remember feeling nervous and concerned about the farmers well being, as it was obvious she was under extreme pressure to succeed.  

And last year in the Catskills, I was at a farm that was owned by a married couple and they were extremely unorganized – that was a huge challenge, arriving to work everyday. I would arrive on time, but the owners were often late, and it just was very frustrating how unorganized they were.

It caused a lot of challenges each day. It was myself and 3 other pretty reliable people. we had been farming for a long time, so we would kind of have an idea of what needed to be done so we would start doing something – we didn’t want to just stand around. That was really frustrating.

I am very organized and I have managed businesses before so I know that if it were my business I would not have been in that position. That was a huge challenge, those owners were really pushing the four of us really hard. The four of us were in a lot of physical pain.” 

It just kind of amazed me how challenging the owners made each work day. An example – they would send us out into the field, tell us they needed 300 bunches of radishes. We would harvest all the radishes, then the owners would realize that they already had 150 bunches in the walk-in. That was a common occurrence, stuff like that.

We were just doing a lot of unnecessary work due to lack of organization.

Qualities of a dream farm?

For me it would definitely have to be an organized farmer.

The farm has to have a bathroom. I have been in some really not good situations with bathrooms. I think that is really important because of what could be transmitted to the field or the vegetables.

The energy really needs to be positive.

And the communication – open communication.

And then  I think the quality of the produce really needs to be high. What is being sold at market or to restaurants should be high quality.