Emma Dooley (she/her)

Emma is going into her third year farming on farms not her own. She currently works on a vegetable farm in southwestern New Hampshire, and has also farmed in New Mexico.

I was working as a mental health worker in downstate NY where I’m from, and I had been doing that for two years and could see how I was going to get worse at my job if I kept doing it.

I thought about other ways that I could help people in a diversified way, and kind of take care of myself at the same time.

Food came up as something I both love and could contribute to people’s health and wellbeing.

I decided that I wanted to farm.

I was watching a lot of Chef’s Table.  I was kind of burnt out on vacation from work, and I started looking for internships.

I was hired at a farm in New Mexico and I drove out there in late February…

Initially it was my foot in the door (to farm for someone else). I didn’t know anyone in agriculture and I wanted to travel.

And the reason that I don’t have a farm right now is because I don’t have enough money, or anything close to it. The landowner that I work for has values that I agree with, as does the farmer who has come on board now. 

I’m totally open to starting my own farm in the future, but I wouldn’t be surprised by anything happening in my life at this point and in human history.

I just want to get better.

I like the feeling of looking at a task that seems impossible and then hacking at it for a day and seeing what human hands can do.

I think coming here last season was extremely difficult because both the land owner and the person who had been taking care of the land here before, neither of them really laid out a job title or role.

There was no structure or shared expectations as to what we wanted to happen. Even though we were having conversations, it just always seemed unclear.

And also the man who was taking care of the land was very unsupportive.

He wanted us to fail.

He saw us as young lazy city people, and tried to undermine us emotionally. 

I didn’t have days off last season. He would say, “You work all the time. Get off? You don’t get time off!” I felt like I had no days off and no time off, and felt like I got less work done because of it. 

The farmer now and I see eye to eye – our values are in line. It’s just more copacetic. 

The roles are already identified.

We have a stand up meeting every morning and a sit down meeting once a week. 

My dream farm would be a strong community where people communicate with each other, share their lives and food and work and play and responsibility. As far as a farm where I could live and put down roots and stay on for years, I would need flexibility to travel, that shared responsibility piece would be important. 

Some sort of informal insurance plan would be good. 

I was driving t-posts into the ground last season and I hit my head and my head bled, and now I have a $1000 bill because I didn’t have health insurance at the time.

I got 4 staples in my head, and that’s a lot of money for me right now.

I haven’t fully committed to farming. I want something else to fall back on – even though I’m so educated about farmers and farming and what it can be, it’s just so difficult in realty for so many people. I don’t know if I should be trying to have hope or go along with my original plan.

I’ve connected farming and kitchen work for a while. That is what I was doing before Covid, working at a kitchen in West Chester county at a train station. It’s just funny how farm work and kitchen work go together so much. Both are so thankless and rough on your body and there are no benefits.


Charlie the farm dog