Mark Russo (he/him)

Mark has been farming on farms not his own for the last 8 seasons. He works primarily as a stage hand in theatre productions, and has farmed in the off seasons, or on the side.

I’ve always been interested in food and my family’s gatherings have been around food and food culture.

The thing that clicked for me that made me decide to be a farmer was reading “the Vegetarian Myth”. i was already a meat eater and was already aware of the negative things in the food system.

the idea of working outside and using animals to manage and improve landscapes and sequester carbon in the soil and produce good nutritious food, all that clicked for me while I was reading that book. 

As a theatre person, working collaboratively has always been how I’ve operated. Because of my health issues and my experiences on nuclear family farms, owning my own farm never appealed to me.
Finding a group of people that I can farm collectively with takes time. 

For me the number one issue, and not unique to farming, is the person not responsible for doing the actual task dictating the way a task has to be done -without any open feedback response, and in a way that majorly inconveniences the worker. Whatever the marginal gain to them is not conveyed to me as a person. Somebody telling me how to do something a certain way that benefits them but not explaining it to me. 

I’m a very materialistic person in the sense that I need to live in a nice house and drive a nice car, but not in a Kardashian way. I’m grounded in the material world.

The intrinsic rewards of farming are appealing to me – they help my brain work well. I’ve never done well with abstract work in school or working in an office – it’s challenging to get motivated about things.

Farming is very real and up front.

what is out of control is out of everyone’s control.

I value the connection to the natural rhymes of waking up and being connected to animals and plants and spending time outdoors connecting with non-human people, experiencing a not super constructed and controlled environment.

You get sense of your place in the universe and world – you can be a positive influence. It’s not just all paved paradise and malls. 

And food security -my illnesss is tied to the food that I eat. There is no way I could mentally and emotionally handle the kind of job that I would need to afford the kind of food I need to eat. 

This is a way for me to do it. 

Most farms are not rowing in money, but working especially as hard as you work as a farm worker without a path to equity, without some kind of appreciating gain, it just sucks.
With farm wages being what they are, it’s almost impossible to save up money while working on a farm, especially if they don’t provide housing. It’s a treadmill situation.
It made sense when I was really green. Now that I know what I’m doing, it’s lame to work for $12/hr and not get equity. 

The term farmer should be reserved for farm workers.

There are plenty of people who are called farmers who could more accurately be called farm managers or crew managers. It’s like “planter” for plantation managers, they didn’t do any planting. 

There is this whole culture of American farmers growing corn and soy, sitting in an enclosed tractor the whole time.