Tasha has been farming for 20 years, with the majority of that time working on farms not her own. She is going into her second season working for a farm in Maine.
Currently I’m working at a farm in Freedom, Maine, which is mostly a wholesale farm.
We sell to the Belfast Coop and area CSAs – cooperative CSAs. There is one that buys vegetables from area farms and makes boxes from what they get. We sell to another outfit that does CSA shares, resells wholesale and has a retail market. We sell to hospitals, colleges, elementary schools. We don’t do a lot of retail. We might have people come in and ask to buy things, and we usually don’t say no.
We do a big seedling sale in the spring. We sell to the public and we also sell to nursery and garden centers, it’s a big part of our output – spring seedlings.
We aren’t a diversified farm as much as a CSA or market farm would be.
We sell specific crops like roots and greens and herbs. We grow ginger and tomatoes and peppers. It’s mostly tractor cultivated and prepared bed systems.
I’m the greenhouse manager and then there is a little bit of overlap before I go fully into the wash shed/pack shed manager.
I’m sort of like an assistant manager.
People know that I’m in a management position and I help make decisions and people can ask questions. The owner feels comfortable to leave me in charge, as well.
I’ve been farming probably for 20 years.
I started in Rhode Island where I’m from and then I moved to Vermont and I was there for 3 years working at two different farms. Then I moved to Maine. I had my own farm for 7 years and then worked for another farm and now work at this current farm.
I was in college because I was interested in natural medicine. I was taking the human biology route and then I realized I didn’t want to be stuck inside. I decided to study botany and plant science.
I got really interested in how Native people used plants in their culture- ethnobotany.
I sort of had a plan to go to grad school to study it.
While I was in college, I started working on a farm and just fell in love with it.
It was very healing for that time in my life and it was really nourishing for my soul. I felt really connected to the earth. It just felt like the right fit for me.
I’m a yoga teacher as well, but at the time I hadn’t done my certification yet… I did this program called ‘40 days to personal revolution’. You do yoga for 40 days and follow a diet – you cut out all of your processed foods. You ask yourself all these introspective questions. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do…I was torn between school and farming. At the end of that 40 days, it was super clear that I was going to be farming.
It was the clencher for me.
The main reason and maybe only reason I left my own farm is because of a relationship split.
My partner at the time owned the land, but it was my farm, my business.
When we split, I had no stake in the land.
It was a painful loss, I still mourn it to this day.
I had to basically give it up.
I do hope to redesign a business for myself associated with farming, around farming in some way. I don’t know exactly how that will look – I’m kind of piecing it together in my mind. I’ve been working on it for the past 3 years.
But I love farming – I went to work for a water well company and during the two years that I worked there, there was such a void in my life and my soul because I wasn’t working the land and it’s what really grounds me and roots me to the earth so I quit that job.
I could be making more money with benefits year round, long term and at what cost, you know?
I went back to farming. I am farming for other people now until I can do my own thing again.
I’m open to continuing to work for other people if I find that there is a fit for me that really works and fulfills what I really want to do, too. I don’t necessarily have to do my own thing again, but I do still have that desire.
A cooperatively run farm would be the dream.
Even if it wasn’t a cooperatively owned farm – if it had this cooperative level of freedom, where I could implement my own ideas and not be overruled if I had a passion that I wanted to fulfill.
- And to work with other people who are as passionate as I am about farming, people who care about what they are doing toward their farming practices.
- Sustainable and organic are super important for me.
- Respect and open diversity for people is really important to me.
If I’m working for other people, at this point in my farming career, I really want them to know what they’re doing and have their heads together.
I’m not so much interested in people trying to figure things out.
It’s okay if there is an aspect of that going on, but it has to be 25% or less trialing things here or there.
We have to have a strong foundation of knowledge that we are creating an abundance of food and enough that we feel wealthy enough to sustain ourselves in the world.
Early on I realized that farming was going to be a career for me.
There are a lot of people who work on farms just for the money or the experience or for the summer, but for me I knew that this was going to be my career.
Right from the beginning I really thought about what I wanted to do – my desires and passions.
I tended to bump heads with managers and owners that weren’t open to my ideas. I understand when a farmer has put a lot of energy and time into making systems work, I love that, but even then as an owner or manager, it’s important to at least listen to someone’s idea. Especially if they are thinking about this as a career and they are passionate about it. It instills in them to continue with their passion and to continue to have ideas.
If someone shuts you down really quick and when you’re younger, it can sort of put a damper on it. That is an issue that I’ve had traveling to different farms.
You realize as you move through your career and hopefully toward management – you learn education is key – as long as you are working & learning at the same time.
I do feel like it’s just a part of farming, you do have to put in your dues. You do have to pick all the peas and weed all the weeds. As you get older and more knowledgeable and your skills are more valuable, you don’t always have to pick peas for 4 hours or pull every weed.
I love farming, almost every aspect of it.
I want to do less laborious tasks as I did when I was younger, but all of that is really important for helping me to appreciate where I am in my farming career.
At this point, I’m almost always looking for management jobs, but I’m a humble person.
I work as part of the crew a lot of the time, doing the same exact thing the crew does.
The job I had before the one I have now, I worked for about 6 years. I worked for them during the winter while I had my own farm and I did not have a management position, but there weren’t a lot of people who worked there. There were 4 women, all experienced farmers. The farmer we worked for was very respectful of where we were at in our farming careers.
Even though I was just a crew member, it didn’t feel like it.
That was an interesting shift for me – having my own farm and then in the winter just being a crew member.
It was humbling, but also I was able to breathe and let go of the management piece of it.
It was almost like a break – it’s kind of like an oxymoron: I was probably working harder for somebody else, but I didn’t have to think about what I was doing. It was a nice balance of in season and off season work for me.
Farming is just so rewarding. It resonates with my beliefs, my ethics, my morals.
I know that I’m doing something in the world that has meaning, that is important, that is respected.
I get to be healthy, spend time outside in the sun, work with my body, and be around other people who have the same sorts of ideals as me. And know that I’m growing really good food for my community and sometimes a little beyond.
I’m a farmer no matter whether I work for someone else or myself.
Anybody who works on a farm is a farmer.
Like I said before, some people are not really oriented toward farming for their life and they are just having a job for the summer or it’s not really a passion or career choice for them – maybe that would be more like a farm crew member. If they want to call themselves a farmer, I think that’s great and empowering to embrace what you’re doing. Even if they are farming for one season and they call themselves a farmer, that is great and you take that with you.
If you’ve worked on a farm at any point and it was a good experience, you carry that with you. You know where your food comes from and it’s powerful.
When I was younger I would call myself a farm crew member or farm employee. When I got older, I became a farmer, whether I was working for myself or someone else.
Having ownership of my knowledge and the value of my knowledge and my skills changed things for me.
When someone finally asked me, ‘What do you do?’, when I was younger in my career, I wouldn’t want them to think that I know everything, not that I do even today. But today I’m really comfortable saying I’m a farmer.
They can ask me whatever they want and I’ll tell them what I know and that is a good bit of information.
There is opportunity and need for health insurance – that piece is such a void right now. I don’t know why either some kind of local governments or local farmers haven’t figured out a way to have some sort of farm healthcare.
It’s one of those things where I’m like:
HELLO, what is going on here?
Farm health care is huge.
Financial assistance for farmers so that they can offer their employees a living wage would be helpful.
There are many government funded programs that support farms that are growing GMO corn or high fructose corn syrup that are doing the earth a disservice. They are compensating them through subsidies for these earth-raping farms, but they don’t have subsidies for little farmers.
So many times at the farmers’ market, people would come and look at my prices and walk away. So, education too – educating the general public about the work farmers do – how much you work without subsidies, working your ass off to grow really good healthy food for people, to offer the practically non-food items for a lot less money, it devalues the work that we do.
Education is a huge piece.
I would be really interested in being a farm mentor. I feel like that is something that would be helpful for farm workers and farm owners alike. Financially or mental health or holistic management. It’s nice to be able to have a mentor if you can.
Farming is amazing. We are blessed to be able to be part of it, anybody is.
It’s not a negative thing, but we need support.
Everything has its trials. It’s hard work. We do it because we love it, but we need support even though we love it.
Tasha’s job tips
Particularly this job that I have now – I wrote in my cover letter what I was looking for.
I specifically said that I want to work for someone who knows what they are doing – who has a good head on their shoulders, who has their systems in place and who is making a profit.
I want to work for someone that I can learn from and that is successful.
For me at the point I am in my life, that is what is important for me.
- If you’re a farmer looking for a farm, do some introspective questioning about what you’re looking for. Know what you want out of that farm before you even apply. Tell the farmer what you want, that’s the only way you’re going to get it.
- Most people apply to multiple farms so we can have our choice. Really knowing what you want and telling them that in your cover letter is really important. It’s going to give you more power to get what you want. Your experience is going to be all the better. You already have said up front what you want rather than accepting a job and accepting whatever they are willing to give you.
- Also know your worth. We are so worthy. People need us. Farmers need their employees. They can’t do it alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. They can say no, but they are most likely going to try to give you what you want.