Katherine McDowell (she/they)

Katherine just finished up her 4th season farming on farms not her own, and is the harvest and planting leader on an eight acre organic vegetable farm in Montréal.

I graduated high school and was accepted into a university for environmental science but I ended up taking a gap year and exploring that field more. I did internships and volunteered in many of the different aspects of environmental science– water quality lab work, environmental activism, land and trail conservation, food rescue and then volunteered on a small scale organic farm and it just felt so right.

Physically working hard out in the elements everyday, connected to the land and weather felt good, and I love how everyday is different but there’s a cyclical rhythm to the seasons and always things to look forward to. I proceeded to do an apprenticeship at that first farm and worked full time and then have worked on several different small-scale sustainable farms since.

I appreciate working on other people’s farms for the learning experience. Every farmer farms differently depending on environmental factors and just personal preference and I love that. That there is no one way to grow a carrot. I love not only working on but also visiting different farms and talking with farmers about their methods and tricks and then continuing on in my farming journey and piecing together what works best in the  different situations I work in.

What brings you back to the fields?

The joys of watching things grow, munching on the best fresh food everyday, the weirdo veggies, not having to buy produce during the warm seasons, the great people this work attracts, the deep weeding conversations, getting to be dirty, walking around barefoot, feeling satisfyingly tired at the end of the day, being out under the sun and rain and elements, the number of times a season I stand in the field and look around and cannot believe that I am so lucky to do this and be out here everyday and get paid for it — just how alive I feel when I do this work.

I do call myself a farmer and I feel like it’s become a very central part of my identity. Honestly it made me feel so good when I got to fill out my first government form and list farmer as my occupation. It’s what I’m proud of doing, what my passion is, what grounds and fuels me. Sometimes, in the winter months if I’m not farming, there’s almost a feeling of loss of identity.

Something I think a lot about is how much I bring my job home with me. I am constantly thinking about how best to structure the next day, or answering messages from the sales team or updating logs when I get home and on the weekends and it’s definitely something that takes a toll. It’s mentally tiring.

A past manager once said to me:

It’s not “you never work a day in your life if you are doing what you love:, it’s “you never work harder”.

and it’s so true.

I really love what I do and hence I spend a lot of energy on it. Sometimes it really takes over my life and I’ve been coming to realize I need to balance my life better and take time to step back from work. Sometimes I am too passionate about it and forget to let myself have time to just be and relax and do other things I enjoy.