yeah. we’re going there.
The lack of access to bathrooms is kind of wild. Usually thought of as an industrial ag problem, crops being recalled on national scale… conditions are so bad on these farms, that’s definitely true, but that problem is also very true for small farms.
A lot of times you don’t have access to a bathroom. I’ve had to explain to male managers that I could have a UTI if I can’t take out my tampon.
Sarah Ann Horton
Having to fight for access to a bathroom is ridiculous.
Having to fight for access to running water, potable water, that is tough.
The farm has to have a bathroom. I have been in some really not good situations with bathrooms. I think that is really important because of what could be transmitted to the field or the vegetables.
Where I work now, we have a portapotty. On other farms I’ve worked at – either there has been a bathroom specifically for employees or we were granted access to a farm owner’s home…access to heat and running water.
It makes all the difference.
After sitting in mud and hauling parsnips, or say you’re on your period, or it’s 35 degrees out (think about all the layers you have to wear to be outside all day)- having an actual bathroom that’s heated feels like a really important way to respect your farm labor.
This is a huge detail that is overlooked.
Leah Grady Sayvetz
The bathrooms – this is a perennial issue. I think people may imagine that a university farm would have their stuff better together – they do not at all. I also work in an extremely male dominated part of the research world, so it’s not catering to anyone who might not be able to stand by a bush. That’s been a huge issue for me over the past four years.
I worked on a farm where the farm owner had a portapotty installed at the beginning of the season at only one of the 4 fields. She didn’t have it cleaned during the season, not once! She used the bathroom at the land owner’s house, but the crew wasn’t allowed inside. Naturally we took to the woods.
The bathroom I had access to was inside of my bosses house, inside his bedroom, which he often slept late. Or using it outside when we were neighbors to an elementary school playground and residential housing. I wasn’t comfortable with either one of these options. It was so wilding to travel to work and have so much anxiety around was I going to have access to a safe bathroom. There were times when I hopped in my car and drove to the nearest bathroom.
Even at the fanciest farm that I worked on, the main bathroom available to us was a port-a-potty which felt backwards because it was not congruent with organic recycling of nutrients and materials. Peeing and pooping into chemicals going to the landfill felt very incongruous.
I did have the opportunity for warm bathrooms at times, which felt great.
At other places, it’s been a little bit awkward: sometimes you go into the farm owner’s home and that is fine, but it’s also – ‘Here I am muddy in your mudroom and not working for a second’ and then you are over-seen. That’s a little weird.
It’s crazy to me that we have a portapotty in a couple of our fields and a bathroom in the home field, and that’s it. If you’re at a field without a portapotty, you have to drive to another field to use the bathroom. I just pee in the woods all the time now. I’m pretty lucky that I have a pretty scheduled digestive system, I don’t have to worry about being in the field and think, ‘oh shit, what do I do?’ Using a portapotty on a cold windy rainy day is not pleasant. There is a whole sector of workers where that is the reality. People in other sectors don’t think about that or realize that or think about how physically uncomfortable that is.
I lived and worked on a farm where I didn’t have access to a bathroom. We had a port-a-potty and outdoor shower. That is what we had access to in the cold of early spring and the dead heat of summer. We avoided using it as much as possible, often choosing to pee in the woods near the fields instead of using the port-a-potty. It’s hard to work in that environment – they advertise you get room and board and there is no mention of the quality. I’ve had friends who worked and lived in mold infested housing. A farmer might think they are doing their worker a favor by giving them a place to live, but if it’s filled with black mold, you can’t live there. Bathrooms and adequate living conditions should be a minimum for “room and board” style farm apprenticeships.
For myself, bathroom access at farms is easier as a male. You’re expected to just go wherever you are outside. Even working in New York City though, there is that expectation, but there are people everywhere. You’ve seen the photos of the bathroom at Project Eats farm, unusable, unsanitary, unsafe.