Isa Berger (they/them)

Isa just finished up their second season on a diversified veggie farm in Maryland, and will stay on for a third season next year.

I feel like I’m really lucky at the farm where I work – there’s really a lot of intention to share power, and effort to facilitate a communication structure that everyone can participate in. There are a lot of check-ins. I feel very lucky to have that particular job. 

I have worked on other farms where worker input was really not valued in the same way, the farmer was really sure about one way of doing things. I felt like I had ideas to contribute that never really got considered because that wasn’t what was expected of me as a worker. Having to always follow the person with more power systems, even when you think there’s a better way, can be really frustrating.

Outside of farming, I’m also an artist.
Something I think about a lot is how those parts of myself could be more intertwined… if one of them has to be more central to my life.
One of my greatest struggles is that the off season is the perfect time to do a bunch of big art projects, but I find I’m most inspired when I’ve spent the whole day outside and have all these images in my head, but then I’m so exhausted.

I notice how the artist part of me is really concerned with

making things aesthetically pleasing,

thinking about how things look,

taking time and attention,

that part is turned off when I’m farming. It doesn’t matter how it looks, it matters how efficiently and quickly I can work.

I feel like the biggest thing that brings me back (to farming) is having a connection to land, just working outside everyday is the greatest thing. I feel like a bonus is that it’s doing something that is nourishing to other people, too. When I dog walked, I also got to work outside everyday, what that lacked for me is a broader sense for me that this is contributing something. It’s very clear when I’m farming what I’m contributing to my community, and that is very satisfying.

Do you call yourself a farmer?

Yes, and the others I work with are also farmers.

If I was talking to someone outside the farm community describing my work – I’m a farmer.
If I were talking to another person who worked on a farm or owned a farm, I’d call myself a farm worker.

I think it feels presumptuous to call myself a farmer when I’m around people who have been farming longer than I have or have their own farm. I want to make a distinction that that’s not exactly where I am and also to be kind of like naming my place within the actual food system  of DC/Maryland area.