Xavier has been working on farms not her own since 2012. She has worked as an apprentice, farm crew member, farm manager, orchard manager and farm house manager. Currently she works part-time on a farm and manages her school garden in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
I will be 40 next year and I’ve moved 39 times.
My grandmother raised me and she did real estate internationally and locally. When she was selling real estate, we moved around for that reason. When she stopped, she started buying and flipping houses, so we spent our time moving to houses, living in them, flipping them and selling them.
When I was an adult, it didn’t seem weird to move, but now I meet adults who have lived in the same house all these years, or down the street from where they grew up, and it blows my mind.
Moving around helped me to see big pictures that people in the same town might have blinders on.
It woke me up to valuing my community wherever that may be.
Since 2020, I have become a full-time student so that is my priority. I am in community college right now looking to get a bachelors in biology. At the community college here, they had a large garden that hadn’t been maintained for a while so they asked if I would be in charge of the garden until I transfer out.
I’m doing that part-time and I also work at my best friend’s farm part-time.
I’m always actively out in fields in my spare time. I consider farming my hobby right now because I do still enjoy it even though it is work.
When I started school, it was during COVID so some of the classes had us come back for lab. I was asked if I would help with the garden.
I didn’t even know it existed.
This garden was created on concrete – 8 inches of soil on top of concrete. It’s very interesting because this space has 16 fruit and nut trees, 5 varieties of berries and a plethora of herbs. Everything has to be edible. The signage on the garden is that it’s an edible community garden and practicing sustainability. The students rotate out every two years, and the faculty doesn’t know too much about gardening either.
I’m trying to make it actually sustainable and enjoyable for people in the years to come before I transfer out.
We are really trying to promote that anyone can take food.
I’m looking to create a QR scan code with instructions and photos -that way everyone walking through can learn about it, find out when they can pick vegetables, how to pick it and that they are allowed to take it. It will help avoid any damage to plants because people don’t know that they don’t know how to do things. They aren’t trying to be rude or damage something. It just happens when you have a garden open to the public year round with no information.
I started working in the garden in May of this year and over the months of being there, I’m very very surprised at how active the actual community and town is and how much they value this little garden.
I started farming in 2012 and I would say that I have been actively participating on a farm every year since if not multiple farms each year regardless of if it was my full time job or not.
Originally I had worked in the mutual fund industry. I was doing programming for mutual funds working for the national security clearing administration. Mutual funds would sell or merge, I did all the programming for that to occur.
I was in charge of millions of dollars.
It was a lot of stress. I did it at a young age. I had moved up in the company through their training process. I was making an incredible amount of money at a very young age.
I had been in the market through the crash.
It was depressing, hearing the phone calls and people losing money.
It felt overwhelmingly unimportant in the world and I loved my little garden that I had. I thought, I’m just gonna quit and go into farming.
People thought I was having mental issues when I gave my notice. They offered me several raises. I declined.
Then, I couldn’t find a farm that would readily take me without having any education behind it.
I spent the year after I left the financial industry as a landscaper. Every farm would tell me that they had zero job opportunities even though they had apprentice opportunities.
They wanted someone with experience.
It was hard to find that…opportunities to gain experience, but when I did, that was in 2012, I was finally able to go into farming in western Massachusetts.
I really wanted to give back to the community, do something important, something that when I die I can feel like people in my community benefited and I did something important for the earth.
I think when I initially went into it, I one hundred percent had the idea that farming was a possibility for me, owning my own land would be a thing and I also thought I would be living off the grid, farming for my community. That was the view I had of it.
After farming at one location for 4 years and moving my way up from apprentice to manager and also doing orchard work and different types of farming…
it seemed too risky to try and own a farm.
The concept of having land and dedicating any and all money I would have in my life to it didn’t seem plausible.
Also, it seemed like all of the farmers I know have had backing:
- Someone in their life had money and thought it was important enough to back them up and did so.
- They had investors.
- Or there are a good chunk of people farming who I consider trust fund babies or somebody’s family owns land.
It doesn’t seem plausible to me without those opportunities being available.
Right now my intent with school and a degree in biology would be to focus on land conservation and a lot of conservation nonprofits in the area are working with local farms in addition to local parks and I thought that would be a way I could stay connected. And also preserve the end goal of community and benefiting the earth.
There are certainly issues with immigrant farmers that I have witnessed.
It was upsetting what was actually going on in farming. In Massachusetts, we have a lot of Somali and Jamaican farmers, some of which are here full time and some who bounce back and forth between home and here. The language barrier kept them from moving up in the positions on the farms, and it was extremely unfortunate.
I was apprenticing for one year and the next year I was a manager or a crew leader and a leader to individuals or folks who had been working on the farm for 10 years.
They definitely knew what to do, but couldn’t fill out the paperwork for crew information, harvest information, day to day stuff. I don’t know if they didn’t want to or if they thought that they should take English classes. A lot of the women wanted to take English classes to become crew leaders, but their husbands wouldn’t allow it. Why not allow it if they could make more money and be in a better position? It made me sad that the crew workers weren’t striving for that and the farm owners weren’t pushing for that – to get that language barrier closed – for those who were so dedicated.
That ended up being something I felt very guilty about. It felt like extreme white privilege. It didn’t seem right at all.
Farm owners always expecting everyone that works there to be dedicated to the land and the ups and downs that nature brings with it.
You need people immediately when something is going on. You need people for row cover, something happened with the greenhouse, paying attention to the weather…
These people have families.
I understand the concern for the land, product, and the value that brings, but your workers have other priorities. And then there are farm owners not having boundaries and being really angry when people weren’t showing up for things.
When I started farming not knowing all the other farms and how they acted, I went into it thinking that the farm I started on was shit, and I always had something to complain about.
In retrospect, they offered things that I thought were very important and that I value, and they tried very hard to push for it. If I was the owner it would have been just as difficult for me to push for things. I still hear people complaining about this farm but I see the value in what they did value.
There are farms that are offering a lot of things and I think we take certain things for granted.
A quality of a dream farm would be housing ideally – and housing that we can afford. I’m not expecting it for free, but I think it should be affordable.
- Farm lunches – I think it is a necessity to eat once a week.
- Free produce – duh. If that’s not a given, shame on them. Value added product discounts, employee discounts. When I say value added, I mean local honey, pickles, local milk. If the farm stand sells it, your employees should get discounts, they should not be paying full price at all. If you expect your employees to represent the farm with branding, you better be providing that, they should not be paying for that.
- Time to educate employees of the WHY behind what we’re doing. Also time for employees to participate in community education. There are a lot of different things every state will do – making sure that the farm is aware of that and giving that time for the apprentices to learn from other farms and other areas.
- In addition, there should be opportunities for community involvement. For example, attending a local protest, especially if it’s nature related and environmental issues.
The farm that I was referring to earlier actually brought me to my first protest. It was against Monsanto. This is something they believed in and wanted to talk about. And they believed that if their staff believed in it, they wanted to give us time to partake in it.
Wages! I just think ag wages are absurd.
Farming is one of the most important things we have going on for humans. Agriculture is substantial when we talk about earth, our ecosystem, what’s happening now. It matters. The people who are out there are working for disgusting wages.
When I started farming, the minimum wage was $8/hr. I don’t understand how people are living like that. I had left landscaping making $24/hr and that was years ago so that rate was going up. I quit that because I found a farm that would take me as an apprentice making $8/hr and they still expected me to pay rent. None of those things added up to making it possible. When I left, I left because I wasn’t making enough money, but I was the farm crew leader, farm stand manager and house manager and I had a local job at a restaurant. Still, I wasn’t making ends meet and definitely didn’t have enough money for insurance. Wages are outlandish.
I know the bottom lines of what owners are living with and dealing with. A lot of owners of farms are not actually making REAL profit per se. A lot of owners aren’t even paying themselves. I understand it’s not always on the owners, but it’s also our government and ag wages.
That bottom line needs to get moved.
And there needs to be more community support of local farms and organic farms.
It’s so expensive for farms to farm organically, even just to pay for the certification. A lot of people aren’t paying for local produce because it looks imperfect – this unnecessary value we put on perfect produce. Supporting local produce will ultimately benefit the community and provide higher wages for workers.