Nico just finished their first farming season on a farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They plan to work on another farm in the area come spring.
I’m at the end of my first farm season.
I’ve been telling everybody that I’m kind of figuring it out, but I saw this really funny meme – a picture of a person saying something like ‘just figuring it out,’ but inside the person’s mind it read, ‘I can’t think of a way to bearably exist in this capitalist world’.
Right now every form of paid labor sounds kinda terrible to me except for farming.
I am definitely trying to farm next season and see where things go from there, and in the off-season, trying to rest a lot and also be able to go on some more adventures.
I’m in an interesting transition period.
Last month I just quit a job that I really cared about and I was with that organization for two years. It was really different work than farming.
I’m feeling excited to start leaning into something different.
Last season I worked on an 8 acre organic vegetable farm in the Los Ranchos area of Albuquerque.
It’s been a mixed experience, for sure.
It was technically an internship program, but I think in retrospect it was only advertised that way for cheap labor, and it was just a job.
I definitely learned a lot from it, but there wasn’t a specific structure to the learning.
It’s been a pretty mixed experience, but the crew got me through the season. Everyone was really dope to work with and I had a lot of fun with them.
Since it was my first season farming, I was learning so much. I was learning what vegetables actually look like before they are put on shelves in grocery stores, which is exciting and beautiful.
Farming is something I always thought could be a good fit for me, so it was cool to find an opportunity to start, and even better that it feels like it fits well for me.
But, I definitely felt like I was exploited and not respected as a worker and that makes me mad.
What upsets me more is my crew and my manager had similar experiences, and they just didn’t deserve that.
None of us did.
The reason I started this internship was because I had been working remotely part time for I think almost a year at that point and I was
I’ve always been somebody who responds really well to working with my hands and working outside and having things be really tangible. That job was none of those things, and at that point, I needed something structured that got me out of the house and in the sun and a little bit dirty.
I figured I’d try it out—I always had an idea that it could be something that I really enjoyed.
I think an easy example of issues for workers on farms is the pay.
Our pay was $5/hour, which is just absurd.
Especially because if it’s marketed as an internship, the expectation is that you’re going to be investing in interns because they are people without experience. There needs to be a lot more intentional instruction for people to feel like they are learning the equivalent of what their labor is providing.
Not to say I haven’t learned a lot. Of course I’ve learned a shit ton over the past 8 or 9 months because going into it I didn’t know anything.
However, hearing other farmers talk about their operations, I still sometimes feel lost and like I didn’t get as much learning out of this experience as I would have liked.
I also think the lack of respect was felt not only in not having adequate pay be a priority, but also in the interactions with crew and that kind of stuff.
At the beginning I could understand the micromanaging a little more because we were new and didn’t know the systems. I understand there needs to be a thorough explanation at the beginning, but once it’s 8 or 9 months into the season, I don’t need to be explained how to harvest arugula or pack a CSA bag.
It felt like we were being infantilized and treated as incompetent a lot of the time.
Working with people is always going to get complicated at times—if that’s the experience and your boss is open to hearing that feedback, you feel comfortable giving it, there’s a culture of feedback, that’s one thing, but that wasn’t the environment at this farm. Anytime any of us brought something up, it was dismissed or justified with weak excuses.
There was a lack of integrity a lot of the time.
I ultimately think if you’re going to be a farm owner and you don’t know how to manage people, that’s fine…
…You don’t need to be good at everything, but you do need to hire someone that does have those skills, and you always need to treat your workers with respect.
We did have a manager, but that person’s autonomy was also stripped.
You can really see the impact that capitalism and patriarchy are having on how this farm was run—the pressure to fulfill every single role instead of asking for support, prioritizing profits over worker autonomy, etc.
No one can do/know everything, and I think it’s an employer’s responsibility to know what their strengths and growth areas are in order to bring the right people onto the crew/team to support.
The people making up a farm are always going to be the primary thing.
Working with or for people who I think are contributing to the community, that really care about each other, make up a dream farm for me.
People who respect each other and the land, who are organizing now to invest in a hopeful future. Who know where that land came from, that land’s history, that farms are political microcosms and places we can practice for the future in. I think we can farm as a way to undermine the systems that we are living in.
Food sovereignty matters, treating the land and workers with respect matters, creating networks of community support matters, healing through nurturing something to grow and in turn feeding people you care about—all of that matters.
That’s what I dream about.
I find a lot of purpose in farming.
In my previous job, I was doing human rights observation work with Indigenous human and land rights defenders in Guatemala. With that job, I felt a lot of purpose and inspiration, but at the end of the day, I knew that job should never exist in the first place. That the conditions that lead to that kind of work are absurdist/apocalyptic/horrifying.
I can find purpose through farming without necessarily having to feel that way – people will always have to eat.
I like being able to watch something grow and care for something and nurture it and have that nourish other people.
It’s pretty spiritual, I would say. It makes me hopeful, and that’s not a small thing in this world.
As a support to workers on farms, and I think it would apply to any job:
encouraging a culture of feedback.
I think that is one of the main reasons why this past experience was so hard. I never felt like I could raise issue with what was happening.
Feeling like your power is being taken from you—that has an impact.
Just normalizing being honest about what you are thinking and what you are feeling.
It’s also bullshit that farmers/farm workers aren’t required to be paid minimum wage.
I mean it makes sense because US agribusiness relies on violently underpaid labor from undocumented migrant workers for cheap food and huge profits.
I’m coming from an extremely privileged farm worker perspective in regards to having US citizenship, having had a college education, having financial support from my family to be able to even pursue farm work in the first place, being white-passing, etc. etc.
And even through all of my intersections of privilege, it’s clear to me that there needs to be a huge cultural shift in what kinds of labor we are valuing. In whose labor we are valuing.
Farming in the Americas and the US was built on the labor of enslaved Black and Indigenous people, and that system has only been modified over the passage of time.
We have to understand that history, the history of exploitation and extraction, to understand how we got to this moment, why our relationship to the land and workers and specifically BIPOC workers is so extractive.
Something that was really special for me was that our crew was a mostly queer POC crew.
I wasn’t expecting that going into it.
A lot of the time at farmers’ markets, the general vibe you’re getting of who works on a small-scale organic farm is a white cis het dude.
I was mentally prepared to deal with that and then it was really nice to not have to.