Not Our Farmers dish on qualities of a:
* dream farm *
a farm not leading to ownership.
folks, this is what could keep us!
It’s like getting married – it’s not something to take lightly to find a farm to stay at for a long time.
Working with people who are dedicated and respectful and passionate about teaching and learning because what we do, we have to learn all the time. It’s never finished, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s always changing.
And people who don’t have that privileged edge, where they feel like they know more than others who didn’t have a similar experience. It’s ingrained in some that people who live on the land and learn with the land, and are actively doing things, don’t know as much as people coming out of institutions, which is totally the opposite.
A farm owner who is willing to train young farmers who are maybe not as well-versed in farming, not necessarily an apprenticeship, but willing to take on the risk with someone not as familiar.
Someone who considers sustainability from multiple dimensions: how are my actions contributing to the community, bringing in social welfare, immigrant workers, etc.
Someone who is also willing to be more innovative and creative and not necessarily doing everything by the book…if there is farmer with different ideas – how to do something, how to weed, etc., being willing to be open to that, and allow that person to bring in the outside knowledge into the farm.
Different types of plants, trees, bushes, perennials, there’s a lot of different stuff growing all over the place. There are check ins regularly, expectations of how everyone will be treated and spoken to. Everyone is affirmed in terms of their identity. Hopefully it’s a wage where everyone can survive and have decent quality of life.
A place that is looking at health through plants and is intergenerational.
I think a really community driven farm, definitely. A strong crew that shares meals and has conversations while they are working. A medium sized farm, once it gets too big, it become the stress of keeping up with the farm and seasons with all the tasks that you have to do. A medium size farm is more manageable for the owner and employees. I personally prefer to work on farms that are more diversified in terms of what they grow and what they raise. I love livestock, goats, goat milk and chickens. I love dairy farms, too, but they can get a lot more complicated to work on. I love berries, too.
My dream farm is a cooperative farm – I don’t need to own a majority share or anything like that. I do want to have ownership of decision making over what I’m responsible for, input, a share of overall profits of diversified operations.
An integrated operation with a value added distribution system.
…A way to make a living off of land that is not exploitative and allows for work/life balance.
It would have to be a higher wage – $25 or more/hour, with a cap of 40 hour weeks and over time and paid time off and vacation time over the season. A farm that is not extracting from me and allowing me to save money to buy a farm.
I think if there was a system that was created so that the hierarchy of farming was based more on collective ideas and accountability, and less so on this all powerful farm manager role…
I think that the individuality and freedom that the farm manager takes on and we as a society have allowed a farm manager to take on can be really problematic. It creates a space that allows for exploitation. Farm hands are not a part of the conversation. They aren’t part of what the public sees and so it doesn’t matter if farm hands stay or if they are happy, because turnover is so high and they aren’t the face of the farm. If there was a way to break that up and create a farming space that was more collaborative and not run by one person – I would be interested in staying longer term.
For me it would have to be an organized farmer. 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. The energy really needs to be positive. And the communication – open communication, and then I think the quality of the produce really needs to be high. What is being sold at market or to restaurants should be high quality.
I would say my dream farm would be constantly evolving and adapting to all the needs of its community in terms of more than just food. As farming evolves, adapting to resilient channels and strategies, making money, but also creating resilience.
A cooperative or collective. Not a single farm owner.
Focuses not so much on profit
Feeding healthy food that is cultural appropriate to the community that you’re in
Regional food hubs – no one person can do it all
I am currently working on a dream farm! Working with like minded folks who have the same end goal, and the end goal is to make our customers happy. And also there is open, transparent communication. I feel comfortable talking to the owners about anything, and being upfront about work or people – they just made it a space where we can talk to each other. I think that they have worked hard so that their employees feel that they can express themselves and talk pretty candidly and not feel judged. I want to work for these people because I care about them – it’s a cool business and I want them to succeed.
If I balance the dreamy farm ideas with reality, I hope to eventually land farming with really competent, confident, badass folks who have been at it for awhile, who love it and really value rest and caring for their bodies so they can do it for a long time. And they have different skill sets to me. A beautiful symbiosis of the team and people who want to stay around and work together for a long time and get good at our systems.
Having spaces that are a designated break space, a way to get out from the elements. At the first farm I worked at, we would work the Friday before a Saturday market, and we would work until 10 or 11pm, so having a place to crash if you need it.
Maybe more opportunities to further educate and be educated. Being able to be more involved in learning about the business side of farming, and lots more transparency.
- An actual intentional educational process. Lots of people talk a big game about intentionally teaching their apprentices. They say ‘Well we paid you, we’re good on our end’, But the point is we are trying to learn something in the process.
- I think the aspects of safety and comfort are harder to put in tangibles. All people deserve safety and comfort, especially in environments that are so isolated like this.
In the context of small scale organic farming,
I want to see more Black Indigenous People of Color farming.
I would love to see folks being more intentional about building community and supporting one another.
I would love to see white supervisors attend workshops on anti-racism/sexism and hold themselves more accountable.
I would love to decenter productivity as a core aspect of farming.
I also would love to see more farms with social justice missions.
My dream is to be part of farming collective and if money was no object in my life, I would like to turn it into a version of eden and invite people to come do their thing on the land.
I want to be on land that I can allow other people to be on. Where we can work together to better ourselves and everyone around us, and get back to living in harmony with the seasons and the earth instead of working against it.
Ownership really screws it all up.
It feels flawed right from the start, the concept of private property, it’s not even a thing. it’s kind of imaginary. something so fundamental like that is a concoction that people in power came up with.
I would say a greater commitment to a more equitable relationship to the Native People of the land that we are earning our living on.
I think cooperative farming structures that really promote curiosity, innovation, and experimentation just create a more interesting work environment.
A new farm hand with two months experience has a voice and should be considered when decisions are made.
I think transparency is something that is always lacking. If a farm was really honest about financials, goals, about what situations are occurring that are hard or good, owners that just talk to the team rather than faking it – I would feel more part of a team and have more loyalty to that system.
- Living wages and employment that can sustain people so they aren’t floundering in the winter and figuring out what the heck to do.
- Cooperative decision making. Not having that kind of hierarchy where a crew member doesn’t make any decisions. A different kind of opportunity.
- Actually taking care of the land.
- Paid lunch breaks and long enough lunch breaks to rest. Just having it feel overall more like a job – farming is one of the most important jobs, feeding people is essential to our livelihoods.
- Having clear boundaries around time. It’s not clear how someone becomes the favorite of the farm manager/owner and gets to be promoted. As a black person, I’ve felt like if I have to be on the farm 7 days a week to be appreciated, that is not worth it to me, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be a good manager.
I think giving the farm hands some sort of collective agency or ownership – some sort of communal decision making in the farm. Establishing a healthy community among the workers and owners and having it feel like an equitable environment of decision making and caretaking. Some sort of base of stability, whether that is healthcare or commitment to continuing work.
I think a dream farm would be where I’m able to work with other people and we all have our specialities. Where we try new things that we are interested in, where we have autonomy over our own little section, but we are able to work together in the larger scheme of the farm. I also think that an interesting idea for an ideal farm would be shared ownership, the employees having some sort of ownership of the farm, rather than just be employees. To have some stake or equity that could accumulate the more they are there.
I want to work on a farm where people have a say in the planning and operation of the farm. Where everyone has a say in the work, people’s skills are recognized and celebrated, and knowledge of the farming operation isn’t kept as currency given out in little pieces.
Where workers are treated as human beings with the same needs as the owners: access to bathrooms and breaks and communication and respect.
Indigenous foods of the area you are in are grown primarily before any other settler food. Indigenous people of the area are fed first always. The ability to work alone.
Opportunities for areas of my own input or management or responsibility taken on. Also definitely shared values, commitment to getting food to people who might not otherwise be able to access it. Another thing that would make it feel like a dream is actually getting fairly compensated for my work and being able to take time off and not made to feel like that is a huge burden on the farm.
A farm that is economically viable, a farm where they have certain financial goals that they meet, a farm where a farmer is making their whole income on the farm (or at least 90% of it), a farm that practices in a way that is ecologically responsible, a farm where I’m paid a decent living wage (which is extremely hard), a farm where there are opportunities to advance your skills and be rewarded for that advancement, a farm that is embedded and responsive to the community, a farm where you can make connections and friendship and feel like you’re having a hand in supplementing food access.
Clarity of roles and expectations – It’s pretty vague in my experience when you work on farms. I’ve had it happen to myself a couple times – hired for a specific role and end up doing a bunch of different Roles and my pay remains the same. Those situations kind of happen without a conversation. Suddenly i’m feeling stressed out and stretched thin and not enjoying it anymore.
Transparency about the business end of things on a farm, how the farm is doing as a business. It’s just kind of an odd thing to not know. Are we doing ok this year or are we not? Sometimes you can think , am I going to lose my job, is this thing going under, I have no idea.
I KNOW I ALWAYS WANT TO WORK WITH A SMALL – MEDIUM SIZED TEAM WHERE THERE IS SMOOTH COMMUNICATION AND OPEN DIALOGUE BETWEEN ALL ROLES. I LIKE THE DESIGNATION OF ROLES WHERE EVERYONE IS USING THEIR SKILLS TO DO THEIR PART TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE WHOLE AND ONE PERSON DOESN’T HAVE TO KEEP TRACK OF IT ALL.
I THINK TOO I’VE MORE ENJOYED FARMS WITH EDUCATIONAL MOTIVES, WHERE THERE IS AN EMPHASIS ON BRINGING IN INTERNS OR VOLUNTEERS AND PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE PUBLIC TO COME AND LEARN.
FARMS THAT ARE LESS DRIVEN BY SALES AND MORE DRIVEN BY THE MOVEMENT OF INCREASING THE AVAILABILITY, ACCESSIBILITY AND AWARENESS OF LOCAL FOOD.
I think a dream farm is a farm that takes seriously what radical care can look like in reality. That care means care for the land, care for the water, care for the soil, care for the humans and a super expansive definition of care. Where your basic needs are met, but you are actually thriving, where you are given space for pain and joy in your workplace. The workplaces that have made me feel the dreamiest are the ones that acknowledge your whole human self and don’t ask you to put that on pause. I don’t want to pretend that I’m not a full human because I’m at work. I’m a full human every waking moment. I think that it is strange that we pretend that it is put on hold. We have painful moments, we say dumb things, we say smart things, we have embarrassing moments, showing up as your full self every day.
For me, it is a space where there is interest and excitement and curiosity of myself and other farm workers. And not just those with the privilege of access to land and a business and structure of power. That there is space for the learning and excitement and contribution that all of us have that bring what is truly special to a farm. I think that for me the kind of complexity and intricacy and woven-ness of so many different types of farm interests is what creates a really vibrant farm space. When there is space for that, there is space for a ton of joy and a ton of excitement. When there is not, we can feel really stifled by the spaces that we are in.
I’m not out here farming because I want to get my own farm and make a dollar. I’m in it for more spiritual and community reasons. For my future, I’d love to work with other farmers and build upon all of our skills. A place where everyone has a stake in it.
The stakes are too high for one person – and that is kind of a scary thing. Two people, two bodies, once you reach 50s/60s and if you’ve been going hard your whole life, shit! Distributing the stakes or the power is the most sustainable way to keep these food systems going.
Open lines of communication and adequate knowledge sharing. Allowing any employee to help make decisions about what’s happening on the farm and how things are done. Farm owners and farm managers would recognize that they aren’t just teachers, they are students, and the people they employ have the power to teach them things.
The farm workers are the ones out there in the field and they are trying things differently all the time to make them better, but the people calling all the shots, they don’t know how to do things differently.
I would like to see farm owners providing gear and supporting their workers to protect themselves from the elements. I would love if farm owners made body care such as acupuncture and massage accessible . Health insurance, safe housing, and safe working conditions!
Having the recognition for the work that I’m actually doing.
A farm that creates equitable access to fresh and nutritious food and charges fair prices that are accessible to all.
A farm that prioritizes rest.
A farm that doesn’t operate with an extractive mentality.
A farm that empowers all individuals working on it equally.
A farm that is not just safer for all people, but truly safe for all people.
A farm that is run cooperatively, where all partners have an equal say.
A farm that provides a fair living for all those working on it including access to healthcare and paid time off.
A dream farm for me would emphasize diversity, not just in the amount of crops, but a place where there is a focus on respecting biodiversity and stewardship for the land. A farm that is community driven. Creating space where people feel like they are learning and are empowered in their own way to learn a wide array of skills.
It’s good to have systems that are complex, but you’re taking care of a lot of different things and taking things one step at a time, slowly building on as you go. I know for myself I would love to farm less than 2 acres to spend more time on the land using more human-powered techniques.
I feel like for the most part, I’m definitely working on a dream farm. In the Not Our Farm project, this is the best case scenario: our farm could be a good example of how great things can be.
I want to work at a farm with a mission and vision and similar values that I have. The values are respect for others, definitely. Not just not racist, but a person who is working to abolish racism, an activist. And someone who has a good relationship with the land and the people. Definitely sustainable farming or at least close to sustainable farming.