Audree has been farming on her college farm in Pennsylvania, and is in a paid hybrid position of farm working and outreach.
I just graduated college last year. I was already involved in my college farm and there is this post-bac position that they offer called the Education and Outreach Coordinator and that’s what I am.
The farm itself is one of the biggest college organic vegetable farms in the United States, and not just a garden.
It’s formally 80 acres, but we actively grow on 10. We are organic certified and we have cows, sheep and chickens.
My job requires two full days at the farm a week and two and a half days in the office, and a half day doing CSA distributions.
So when I’m on the farm it’s just regular farm work and I like going on harvest days because that’s the funner days and it’s cool to have that choice of when I get to go in the week.
Being a part of CSA and seeing our customers is really rewarding and affirming.
On days that I’m not at the farm, I am in charge of all of the campus and community outreach so I organize a lot of workshops and events.
It’s like farming and advertising the farm – that’s what I’m doing.
The position that I have is one year – May to May. I was offered a second year and I took it so I’m going to be here for two years.
I would say that I’ve been farming for a year, but I got involved with this farm two years back when I was a student. I worked at the farm over the summer, but I wouldn’t consider myself working for the farm – I did research as a student that was supported by the farm.
The research doesn’t have a formal name quite yet because it sounds really long, but we’re assessing the potential for home gardens and home gardening as a solution for household food insecurity in the Carlisle borough.
I didn’t know how to garden or farm at all before I started so it was this really new experience and I loved it.
It was the research that brought me to farming.
I started in 2020. Part of this experience involved starting my own vegetable garden on campus and eventually helping other residents in our community start theirs, creating a home gardening manual, and occasionally coming out to the farm to join the crew. I thought it was super cool and a really great way of meeting people from outside my typical friend group on campus.
Upon graduation, I knew that I wanted to do something sustainable food related or in the field of food system work, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.
The college farm felt like the perfect transition place where I could have more responsibility and ownership over what I do at the farm.
It’s been really cool to grow food and learn how to sustain myself – feed myself what I want to eat.
In the future I don’t see myself owning or running a big full farm.
I think doing something with value added goods is kind of the route I want to take.
Making something from the produce instead of just selling produce.
I love food and I love experimenting with food and I think the way people eat here is very governed by society and capitalism.
There are ways to cook and ingredients to cook with that are so confined – like soy sauce, people can’t imagine using soy sauce in anything other than fried rice, but what if we can make jam with soy sauce?
There are boundaries that could be tested.
The idea is that I want to explore different ways to use produce – savory things for sweet things and sweet things for savory things.
There are so many experiments we could do and it would be fun to share.
Over the summer we hire student farmers. We do weekly lessons.
This one lesson we invited an art professor and she gave us these handkerchiefs to draw on.
She asked to draw what a break looks like at the farm.
We all just stared at each other and thought, ‘what break?’
It was funny, but also really sad.
A lot of us wrote that our breaks were walking slowly to the bathroom.
One of the apprentices drew a Clif bar – “My break is when I eat my clif bar mid-harvest.”
The guilt for taking breaks, it’s unspoken that we aren’t allowed to take breaks.
As students we are groomed to be productive and want to be productive.
As a woman and of a smaller frame, a lot of the tools are heavy and awkward.
The farm gloves we use are huge.
It’s fine over the summer, but you don’t realize how terrible it is and when the winter comes, it’s either using the glove that is too big for you that you can’t cut things with or it’s freezing your hand.
There are new gloves, but they are too big and because some work there full-time and are there when the farm opens, they hold onto their gloves that fit them.
It slows you down and makes you not feel productive.
One of the biggest things that would keep me on a farm is relaxed hours, paid lunch.
Even working less than 40 hours would be nice.
I was talking about this with one of the apprentices last year – Wouldn’t it be so cool if we work 4 days instead of 5?
Some would work Monday to Thursday and others would work Tuesday to Friday, then all the days are covered. I’m not sure how realistic this is but it would definitely make me feel so much more appreciated and rested.
I was also thinking snacks- everyday.
On our harvest days we have Snack Club.
Every harvest day someone brings a snack for everyone, but it’s only on harvest days. Hunger wouldn’t be a thing if that happened every day. That would make everyone feel so much more happy.
I have a friend who works at a farm in Colorado and their farm is non-hierarchical.
I don’t know how to visualize it, but I think some of the issues with decision making would be really interesting in a non-hierarchical setup.
Farming is the most rewarding and relevant thing that I could do for myself and for “society” right now.
Learning about the work and doing it feels very important.
It feels like my way of reclaiming ownership of how I feed myself and my community and how we create sustainable landscapes and economies.
Starting farming, I’ve learned so much about myself and really deepened my passion for food, how I give feedback and how I receive feedback, how I work in a group, what my strengths are.
It keeps me physically in check.
I like the challenge of lifting awkward things.
I have met a lot of cool people that I don’t think I would have met had I not come to this farm, a lot of ideas.
Everyone who has worked or works for this farm are homesteaders or want to be homesteaders, and it’s the coolest thing ever. Meeting them and talking to them and getting connected to other farms has been really great.
I sort of call myself a farmer but it’s more like a grower. I’m very in between, but it never comes to my head to call myself a farmer or farm employee.
Reading farm employee/farm worker to me sounds very disposable, no ownership.
A farm worker doesn’t have ownership over anything at the farm including the crop plan, how they grow it.
It doesn’t feel genuine.
But then on the flip side, with not being the owner or ‘the farmer’, there are less stakes in how well the farm is doing, less stress. Not having as much stake in the success of the farm could also take away from the success of the farm.
I see why the label matters.
As farm workers, how do we approach these conversations:
I did not ask my boss what I was going to make when I applied for this job because it feels like, in fields like these, they expect you to want to work here for however much it pays.
Income negotiation too, especially for how much work you’re putting in and benefits and compensation.
Compensation financially, but also if there is a chance/opportunity to be compensated on personal tools or phone data plans. We call or text a lot and our harvest plan is on an internet based thing and that takes up data when you’re not on wifi.