Katie currently works at a farm education non-profit in Portland, Oregon, and will be joining a production farm crew this upcoming season. She has been farming on farms not her own for 4 years.
I’ve been a professional baker for a really long time and have worked on various farms my whole working life. I’m more seriously dedicating my future to farming. I’m in a kind of interesting identity shift…instead of introducing myself as a baker, I’m at the stage of introducing myself as an aspiring farmer, it’s an intense emotional process.
I managed a farmers’ market in Chicago for a handful of years and really spent a lot of volunteer hours helping out on various urban farms in Chicago, and worked for an urban farm here in Portland, as well. A lot of my rural farming experiences have been in this category called nomad farming. I have so many friends in the ag world, and I’m always helping out on farms and lending a hand, or learning about different topics like seed saving or helping with harvests, all a little bit of a no-home farmer.
For me farming is this way to locate my form of radicalism and form of resistance work. It’s where I feel grounded in actualizing the way I want to model not a new world, but a better future world.
I talk a lot about care based economies and I’ve never found a place where I can make that more manifest than in growing food and tending land and learning and apprenticing from land directly. Nothing else around us models care the way that land does and being part of actualizing a solidarity economy, an economy not rooted in extraction and pain and competition and destruction.
I think a lot about what it means to enact a world where gifting, trading, sharing and bartering actually exists. Once you become involved in the farming community, you see that we are already doing this and people have been doing this for years and years, but rendered invisible by the hugely dominant capitalist machine.
The further you go into communities that are doing land based work (not to say there aren’t massive cases of extractions and capitalism), I have found a lot of farm families that are deeply rooted in sharing and reciprocity.
Farming feels like home to me.
I love physical work. I think that we are not taught, particularly as folk who grow up in a very white centric environment, that privileges the written word and academic success as some marker. We are taught to look down on physical work in this way that is really destructive. I really love a hard day’s work and there is a way that we can do that is not super extractive and exploitative of our bodies, a way that is deeply satisfying and enriching.
Getting to participate in a tiny miracle every single day is pretty magical. There is something so captivating about being a part and witness and given the gift of observance of life in this way that really roots you in reality.
THERE IS A WAY THAT YOU COULD LIVE YOUR WHOLE LIFE UNDER OUR CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES AND FORGET THAT THE EARTH IS STILL TURNING OR THAT THERE ARE SEASONS OR SOMETIMES IT’S A DRY SEASON OR A REALLY WET YEAR.
WITHOUT THAT AWARENESS, DO YOU EVEN LIVE IN A PLACE?
BEING MADE HUMBLY AWARE OF PLACE IS SOMETHING THAT I REALLY LOVE.
There is this weird gut feeling that I can’t use that term (farmer)…that I’m not good enough to use that term, or I don’t have enough experience, or I’m not valid enough. It’s taken me a long time to publicly say that I’m farm curious or an aspiring farmer. At night my partner and I talk about our dream farm or trying to find a place to farm. It’s all we talk about and care about. I have three book shelves full of farming books, but I still have this clenched gut of calling myself a farmer, or I feel the need to qualify myself by saying, “I know it’s crazy…”. It’s this weird thing that I feel like I have to justify or have a self deprecating tone about it.
I see a lot of people scared to not know how to farm, they are scared to ask and scared to learn.
You’re expected to do something perfectly.
We live in a society where we don’t grow up learning these skills. We live in a world that has suppressed that ancestral knowledge and blood memory that we all have in our roots no matter where we’re from, it’s been so pushed underground.
We show up on a farm and are ashamed to not know, that fear lingers over us. Learning environments are not created on farms very well because folk don’t know how to be mentors. There’s a huge discrepancy between people who want to learn and are there to learn and grow as farmers, and the environment where people are so stressed and overworked so they are not tending to a culture of mentorship.
It sucks some of the joy and creates tension.