Keely Curliss (She/Any)

Keely has been farming on farms not her own for 13 years. She is currently the farm manager in Rhode Island on a 10 acre vegetable farm with a poultry operation for eggs and meat. 

I started farming when I was a teenager through an organization in greater Boston. It had food justice programming and employed teens on farms.

I was just out of 8th grade when I started working on veggie farms. 

The first summer I just wanted a summer job, and I sort of fell into the food system and food justice work through the farming side of things.

I absolutely adored being in the fields and being part of the food system, being so connected to food and being outside.

I wasn’t a young person who did great in school or who loved school in a formal sense. I loved hands on work and how my brain and body were fed through farming. All through high school I worked in summers on farms and post high school that is what I’ve done. I didn’t go to college. 

I grew up in Boston, with one parent in the city and one parent outside. I gained a familiarity with farms outside of Boston, and in the city a familiarity with the consumer side, food access and farmers’ market understanding of the food system. 


One of the most interesting things for myself and other folks I’ve known is the land owner relationship – whoever that human or entity is, whoever owns the land.

The relationship between the people working the land and the owner is such a complicated and sometimes painful and tumultuous relationship. It’s rare for me to see a positive relationship with a landowner.

One of the farms I worked on – the land was leased from the Farmland Conservation Trust. The manager I was working under would have meetings with the wealthy folks who had put tons of money in or had financially invested for pristine farmland in their town. They would come and inspect the land and find ways that we were infringing or how we were in violation.

The farmer is the person who has the most intimate view of the land and relationship with the land on a day to day, hour to hour basis. They are acutely aware of everything that is happening. This overseer who walks the land however, often they walk it and do not have the intimacy of the land, and yet they have time to percolate on all these options on how they want the land to look, or not look. It’s hard to explain the struggle with that relationship and how hard it is to work with people like that.  

I’m Native American. My tribe is from Massachusetts. My relationship to land and land tending is deeply entrenched in that identity. That impacts how I think about long term relationships and tending to the land in the future.

Working for other people versus not – that is why it’s a little bit complicated and why I feel exhausted by managing that relationship with a land owner who owns land in the territory where my tribe is from.  It’s a challenging thing to think about.

I just want to live and farm. I know so many people who feel that way – myself and other Native people who want access to our land.

The same way that I believe there is abundance of resources, there is abundance to land. There are a lot of people who hoard resources, I hope there can be a fundamental shift in how people look at land ownership. 

All of it keeps me coming back! It’s the best job in the whole wide world. It’s magical. That’s a huge reason. You get to witness magic every single day.

Today I was harvesting kale and it was 35 degrees and I saw a bald eagle chasing an osprey! Things I put in way too late magically heading up anyway. Little and big things that you get to witness in the field every single day.

After the first couple seasons of being committed to farming, I hoped I would never go a day without being outside all day. I want to know what is happening outside in the real world, not in the indoor world.

A lot of farmers have this desire to do hard things and feel really proud of yourself and farming offers ample opportunities for that.

I don’t think I could afford the way I’ve been able to eat if I didn’t grow my own food.

Being able to share that with people, my abundance that I can share with the world, feels important and special. It’s the reason why I will never not grow my own food, there’s always enough. If there is not enough of one thing, there is always something else.


The world is trying to tell us that there is such scarcity, but when you are outside and with food and the land everyday, you are reminded that the opposite is actually true, there is so much abundance.

If I balance the dreamy farm ideas with reality, I hope to eventually land farming with really




folks who have been at it for awhile and who love it and really value rest and caring for their bodies so they can do it for a long time. And they have different skill sets to me.

A beautiful symbiosis of the team and people who want to stick around and work together for a long time and get good at our systems.

I think about crew turnover a lot. The years you worked with a crew that clicked so hard and so good– I want that for a long haul for a stretch of more than two seasons. 

What I’ve seen deter people after two or three years of seasonally farming is the lack of benefits. Not guaranteed a job back, not being eligible for unemployment, all of those barriers to financial security can make choosing seasonal farm work a challenging career choice.

One of the harder parts for me when I‘ve said I need to get a “real” job or get married in order to survive…I’m glad I didn’t get a “real” job or get married, but I am still wondering what happens when people who have children? The only people I know who have children are the farm owners.