Holly started farming on farms not her own 15 years ago. Currently she is a full-time student for horticulture technology at a school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that is completely free if you are accepted. She will become certified in pesticide application and tree tending as part of the program.
She works a side job as a balloon artist – doing organic balloon installations, “blobs of different colors and different sizes for free formed shapes for events”.
I lived in a really small town near Pittsburgh, and my friend found this farm that if we volunteer our time, we get vegetables. I thought that was the coolest thing.
Before that I didn’t really care about plants that much. Neither of my parents were gardeners. It was really that experience on that farm that made me really interested, and from there I got interested in the wild plants that I was in the same community as – medicinal plants and flowers, and that kind of kick started being interested in horticulture.
That farm I ended up working at – I showed up there the next season with the intention of still volunteering, and I kept working more and more days.
The farmer was like, “I need to start paying you money.’ I became the farm apprentice. I worked there for 3-4 seasons. It was an certified organic vegetable farm, 11 acres, he only did vegetables.
I had a bad situation with a farmer owner.
It was honestly a Me Too situation.
He was just inappropriate with me – it was an inappropriate relationship and I was too young and probably too naive and didn’t have the vocabulary that we have now. Plus he was my boss. How could I confront him? ‘You should stop being like this, you should stop being in love with the idea of me.’ It was just me and him most days.
So I have worked on other farms more recently, and they’ve been my friends who lease the land off of the owners, and there is just no infrastructure for comfort. You have to go to the bathroom outside all the time. I think some people might not mind that, but I think if it’s not your farm, then that is a bigger deal to have something like that.
Also I think it’s difficult to have to commute to the farm – you’re not there and you’re not really observing and being a part of it if you’re not living on it. I just think that there is an imbalance and you’re not in tune with what’s going on. I just think that is really hard.
Those things trickle down and make it kind of harder for somebody just working there. There’s nowhere to go – there is no upward mobility really, and if it’s a small farm I don’t know how you could really pay somebody more up to a certain amount.
I think my pay rate from when I was on that farm over 15 years ago – I was still making that same amount on my friends’ small farm recently.
I really like having very fresh vegetables. A lot of my friend circle in Pittsburgh, they have their own farms, and the past few years, I wasn’t really doing any full-time work, so I was kind of doing whatever gig jobs, and if they offered me work I would do it mostly because of that.
I love being outside and moving – that is very important to me.
But the actual work of it, I find to be very monotonous and not that enjoyable.
at one farm I worked at – I really really loved making the flower bouquets because of the creativity involved in that. I appreciated that.