Not Our Farmers take on the notorious/glorious/awkward/neglected/organized/ unpaid/obligatory/necessary/absent/….
I found it really interesting to see how people engage with lunch. I really like it.
At the farm that i was at this past season, we brought a grill out and we would dedicate tuesdays to a really nice, big lunch. Just to have that hour and a half lunch to hang out with each other and find relaxation.
I think that it’s really important that your team has an adequate amount of time to eat and rest. Pushing people causes bad energy. And it’s not sustainable. That’s another thing – it’s like because we’re farmers, they’re going to treat us like we’re less than or not human. People in farming should have health insurance, and have lunch breaks, and be treated like human beings.
We always have a 10:30 snack.
This season, we started a tradition.
Rice cake, plain & bland. We do mayonnaise, salt and pepper, and fresh veggies and herbs, AND PILE IT SO HIGH! Thin slice of cheese. Radish, tomatoes.
We stretch and sit for awhile, and have a lot of water.
Alyssa Van Durme
When I was preparing to work at the last farm I was at, I was really excited about the idea of a farmers’ lunch. I’ve missed out on a lot of shared community meals with people over the past few years being single and living in a new city. But the differences in identity and the collective culture shifting more toward whiteness became harder and harder for me to take everyday. I started taking a little more time heating up my food or finding ways to spend less time at the table. It felt like peer pressure — everyone had to be part of the lunch every day. I’m a very introverted person and that felt hard to show up for because it didn’t feel like I could find a balance in terms of maintaining my energy for the work day.
But the differences in identity and the collective culture shifting more toward whiteness became harder and harder for me to take everyday. I started taking a little more time heating up my food or finding ways to spend less time at the table. It felt like peer pressure — everyone had to be part of the lunch every day. I’m a very introverted person and that felt hard to show up for because it didn’t feel like I could find a balance in terms of maintaining my energy for the work day.
At the farm I’m at now, we have lunch everyday and the youth cook the meals. They cook really good food. And it feels good to sit at our lunch table and have 15 to 20 people join. There is a core group, but since we have two farms with apprentices and staff, it’s not the same group of people each day. It’s also refreshing because every generation is often present at the table. The differences in identity make all the difference.
I really like the system that we have at my current farm – where we get off earlier than lunchtime. What I think is necessary is organized snacking, just to make sure no one is starving. Most of us eat when we need to eat and drink when we need to, making sure everyone is fine. Just having little five minute breaks.
Humans are social creatures. Humans are feeders. Humans are nurturers. Being able to do that on a farm is extremely important.
I’VE BEEN AT PLACES WHERE WE ALL HAVE TO HANG OUT TOGETHER, BUT I NEED MY NAP. I DON’T CARE IF IT’S TEN MINUTES. I’M DEAD SERIOUS. I HAVE MY ENTIRE BACK OF MY TRUCK FITTED OUT FOR A NAP.
For us on harvest day we had this mentality: it’s harvest day, come in with a big belly of breakfast because we will power through and eat lunch when we’re done. Some days we would eat lunch at 2, some days we would eat lunch at 4. There would be this collective building and celebration of lunch – yes! We earned this.
Self destruction is not helpful. Take a break.
When I farmed in 2014, it was a lot of fun, but also extremely stressful. We only had an hour, but had to cook the food for the crew in a tiny office that was also a kitchen and bathroom. Everyone was cooking at same time and cleaning up. It was a madhouse. I have a lot of nostalgia for it.
We take an hour, which is awesome. At my friends’ farm in Vermont, we started doing a two hour break that we got rid of – a siesta during the hottest part of the day – everyone lived on the farm. They’ve since got rid of that, everyone leaves earlier instead. The crew doesn’t live on site anymore.
Where I’m at now, I feel less inclined to take a full hour myself because I want to get home at a reasonable hour.
It was the best, one person would go back early to cook and you’d come in and there would be all these fresh veggies that you picked.
It’s been challenging for me because of my limited diet. Food has been a really alienating thing for me in a lot of ways.
Part of what keeps me in farming is being connected to the food, having access to that and creating a space for people who have similar health scares to have access to food that won’t make them sick anymore.
At the last farm – we were told we could take lunch, but no one ever took lunch. The times that I did take lunch, my boss would be breathing down my back. Lunch was not encouraged. It was not until my last couple months there that I would take a break. I decided my boss can side eye me if he wants, I’m going to take my 25 minutes at the most maybe.
We have an hour lunch break and before COVID we would all sit together and kind of like hang. now we either sit in our car or just remain the safe distance with each other while we have our masks off.
I think it’s important to take breaks and care for oneself/each other. Especially if you want to farm for the long run. As with any group dynamic though, conflict is inevitable and we definitely had our share of uncomfortable and tense lunches.
In North Carolina, we actually had a 2 hour long lunch in the middle of the day because the farmer was going to do yoga and take self care time. what often happened was that the farmer would do tractor work.
2 hours was destabilizing and de-energizing, I just felt exhausted coming back to work. it made the day so long. We were an hour away from anywhere, we couldn’t even go to the grocery store in that time. we didn’t have time in the evenings because we would wrap up AT 7pm.
That comes up regularly. “Chips for dinner.” We push each other – no chips for dinner, make sure you have a salad.
Those first couple years, I would just push through…part of it was because I didn’t feel actual hunger, it was more thirst that I felt.
This season I have made a note for myself to bring a bottle of dressing to have greens in a bowl in the middle of the day.
We do an hour lunch every day pretty much no matter what. Sometimes I will come back from lunch early to prep something because I’m trying to squeeze the most out of my day. We have a consistent ending time at 5pm.
That’s how I learned how to play Catan at a farm lunch. Now I have my own Catan board game in my room.
It’s so different farm to farm. I’ve done group meals where the first farm I worked at there were 3 generations living on the property. Every lunch we would go into the farm owner’s kitchen and share everything together. It was really familiar.
Also the timing of lunch is really interesting. I’ve had some bosses who say we have to take lunch at 12, no matter what we are doing. Drop the project and go. A lot of crews say they would like to finish what they’re doing and take lunch after. I’m very much in favor of a late lunch.
I Worked on a farm where the boss didn’t eat with us. the crew ate together, and it created a further division between us and him. we didn’t get to know him in a personal way – he was the figure of the boss and we didn’t get to know him as a person.
Farm lunch has changed for me throughout the years. When I was farming in Alabama, lunchtime was one of my favorite times of the day. We would cook together and enjoy each other’s company, relax, and take a walk and go get a coffee. It was such a nice way to spend an hour and break up the day.
Last year was so much trouble shooting and trying to figure things out that I would forget to eat until dinner time.
It’s something that I do love and would love to have a part of my life again.
It’s the best thing on the planet.
We had some really rough years, we were feeling totally exploited, and some years were total magic. We were so bonded over eating food and growing food and making it all together.
It’s a visceral and physical connection to be breaking bread and relaxing together.
Often i would work through it. We had no other breaks besides going to the bathroom. there was So much to do, so many daily tasks that you don’t stop. No one else is stopping, and it doesn’t feel comfortable to request like that.
we would have Forced socialization, like ‘let’s go get a beer right now & have a staff meeting. you have to be here, i’ll pay for beer and pizza and we are going to talk about work while we are eating.’ that doesn’t count as rest.
I’ve had really funny lunch situations.
Eating take-out in the van…. I had this one boss, he had a broken cell phone, and was still taking calls and driving in the car while eating lunch. his ear was bleeding because of the phone, the glass was broken.
It was a lot of pressure.
– ROBIN HERNANDEZ
My ability to grow the food takes precedence over my relationship with the food. If I have a stressful day, I don’t like to feel heavy – I’ll eat a small portion of bland things. like sweet potato with some meat, lentils. I used to work in the heat – I couldn’t get tired – I was working in 120 degree greenhouses. I needed to eat enough to give me energy, but not get sleepy.
Sarah Ann Horton
For me, that time feels like a sigh of relief. We just worked really hard and now we are taking a break and joined in this time together. There is something really wonderful in there.
on our farm, we do share food. Potluck and the sharing of different and special creations around the food that we grew together feels very heart warming to me.
in the past we have also had farm lunch WHERE LIZ, THE OWNER, WOULD COOK once a week for all of us to share. i think that feels really special to be cooked for. that there is kind of a way that food is not just this central thing to gather around, but that making food is an act of care.
That is my favorite part – definitely meal times. I love food especially when it’s stuff that we’ve just produced, it makes it so much better. Our whole team was really into food and we had community dinners. One person cooked and would throw down and make the best meal I’ve ever eaten.
Where I’m at now, we take lunch together and take turns cooking. There is endless access for things on the farm to use.
One farm I had to keep track of what I wanted to take home. I had to keep track of what I was using. That seemed silly when there was so much abundance – it was a 25 acre tractor scale organic farm.
I had a job at the NY botanical gardens, teaching mostly and small scale food growing. I would often after the morning feel like I needed a nap. My boss was pretty against it. he thought it was very unprofessional of me.
at lunch, i would go off to a field in the botanical garden and take a nap, always feeling better afterward.sajo jefferson
My experience for many years is you don’t eat. You eat while you’re working. I worked a lot of retail/farmstand in the summer with my mom…my mom and I laugh about it all the time, we literally have to duck under the counter and take bites of our sandwich.
Even on the berry farm, I wouldn’t take a lunch break, but there would always be a lull in the day where I could sit on a wagon and eat my lunch in peace.
A lot of older farmers don’t believe in a lunch break. Work through it, snack when you can. Eat when there is lull or before you pass out. A lot of the more progressive relaxed community driven farms really value community meals and that is an important thing.
One farm was very laid back. It was a paid lunch and it was really nice. We would eat together and every morning the owner would put rice in the rice cooker. Just before lunch we would harvest what we would like to eat. Lunch there was really nice – we all enjoyed each other’s company and we would talk and hang out.
I worked at another farm that to me felt really strange because the person managing the farm didn’t really talk, so that environment felt very uncomfortable. Most people would work with their headphones in and nobody took lunch together, nobody ate together. The vibe there didn’t feel good, it felt kind of strange.
On the farm I work, we get snack break on the days that we harvest for the CSA – 2 days a week. Once we finish the CSA harvest and get it all washed or mostly ready to go, somebody, usually the owner, yells RED LIGHT!
We stop what we’re doing and go to a table and there is freshly brewed coffee and some baked dessert. We get paid for it.
I’ve had the whole spectrum of farm lunch. At one farm, we had a rotating schedule for who made lunch that day amongst the whole crew. it was Really great because you would only have to think about lunch once every two weeks. That save you a lot of time in your free time, and makes the quality of life outside of work a lot better not having to worry about packing lunch.
Currently, i live down the street from the farm where i work so i go home for lunch and get away.
I feel like I have a masochistic tendency, so I like the feeling of lunch being a place where I can find shade and be like….”Wow, this hurts, are you guys hurt? It’s great, right?!”…and then maybe eat a pear and nap under a tree for ten minutes. I think that’s my youth talking, my inexperience. I know if I want to stay in the game that’s a place where I’ll have to grow…self-love, self-care, mindfulness.
At one farm, we would work 12 hour days, and we would have lunch for 20 minutes. The owner didn’t really eat a lot, he would eat spoonfuls of peanut butter, and he expected people to be keeping up with him. You can’t expect everybody to be like that.
At one farm co-managed by two women, they had a mandatory snack break. It was so hilarious. That was something that when I was hired I was told – ‘we have snack at 10am’. It fucked me up after that because I went to a different farm and there wasn’t a snack break. To this day my belly knows when 10am is. I carry snacks in my pocket.Keely curliss
Breakfast was more of a thing. I got to where I didn’t eat breakfast anymore so it would be 5-6 hours during the day before I would eat.
I wasn’t too into lunch. With my personality, if I’m already seeing everybody for 8 hours, it’s nice to sit by myself for awhile.
They were learning lunches, we would sit down and the farm manager would give a lecture about something. It was part of the learning farm – short lectures while we ate. It was much better than anything I’ve had so far.
In LA, I worked at a restaurant that would force you to take your lunch before we started our shift – the law was that you were to take a lunch 4 hours into shift you needed to take a lunch and two 10 min breaks. In my career from 16 years old and until a couple years ago, I’ve never taken a 10 minute break unless I was smoking (but I quit), which is why so many people smoke in restaurant industry.
There is a mandatory hour break. It was never that you have to eat with all of these people – you’re free for the next hour, do what you want to do. This past year has physically been the hardest year so far. I think that having that hour break was cherished. I didn’t have this sense of community. I was in a really rural place and I worked with one other person other than the land owner.
I really love the situation with lunch at the farm I’m at currently — right around noon each day, leaders check in with each other on the walkie talkies to see if we’re all at a good stopping point and then we all break together for a full hour and eat. No matter how crazy the day is, we always take a strict hour. A full hour sounds long, but it’s a chance for us to rest, re-fuel and stretch. Owners, leaders and crew all eat together at our long table in the shade of the trees and this is the time of day where hierarchy doesn’t matter.
Farmer lunches have been so wild! Some of them are like stick a knife in me: dad jokes, farmer puns – too much.
Other ones have been great, where we can be ourselves and share food.
One farm that I worked at – we had a community kitchen and we shared meals with one another. It was great because we could not talk about work for a second and just bond over mundane things or things that peaked our interest.
They are hit or miss, but I do love them even if I’m rolling my eyes the entire time. I enjoy being with people.
I don’t understand how anyone ever forgets to eat. I structure my day around my meals, that’s how I get through to the next thing.
Even if it’s not delicious, just the act of sharing food with another person is morale building and is literally fuel and metaphorically fuel to get through the rest of the day. I really appreciate showing care for other people because I think it can inspire you to care for yourself, which we often fail to do when we’re farming because there is always urgency.
I think that farmer lunches give teams the ability to connect while also slowing down.
Farm lunch helps farmers to nourish their bodies and gives them the ability to nourish their souls, too.
I love the long group lunch, people sleeping in the corner. That makes the afternoon work load a lot easier.
At first it was kind of crazy because if you haven’t farmed before you’re used to lunch at 11 or 12 o’clock, but with farming it can get stretched out to 2, 3, 4pm or you don’t even have lunch.
When I was working 60 hours on a farm, I would literally scarf my lunch down and sleep the rest of my break. I never got to eat with my crew. I didn’t like them for a myriad of reasons, so it was fine. During the work week, I would eat a giant salad in 5 minutes, sleep for 45 minutes, and then go back to work. My body couldn’t take it.
Something that is a little weird that I wish we could change is that at my current farm, it’s unpaid, but we do a lot of work talk during lunch. Sometimes we feel like we don’t have a choice- it’s led by the owners. It’s a weird position because we aren’t being paid for lunch, but we are being provided lunch. The owners provide us with a lot of other stuff – like treats that they will bring us, so it’s weird. I have this scale in my head with two different sides…how much shop talk am I willing to do at lunch, how much feels fair taking into account the other things the farm provides us. Sometimes I just need a mental break from thinking about what we’re harvesting. Other than that, I love the way we do lunch.
I’ve worked on farms where there is no real lunch break or a really small one and you sort of felt like the farmer is looking over your shoulder and pressuring you to get back to work faster. I have a body and I want to take care of it. Meeting my own physical needs is pretty pivotal. This is more of what I mean about work boundaries making me unpopular with certain farm owners.
We hired this really nice family a couple years ago and they have created this wonderful feel to our lunches. We sit around the table, talk, share stories, and have a lot of language lessons. Last year we got some grant money and added an addition to our barn, creating an office space with a small kitchen. We cook for each other and bring food for each other, showing each other how to cook based on our cultures or backgrounds. With lunch, you have to be there, otherwise it’s offensive. It’s like a little party every day.
Lunch is my sacred alone time. We love each other and scatter and we don’t even talk about it. It would almost deter me from working on a farm to have structured farm lunches. For us I can see how it helps us to step back and have our alone time and come back together.
At Even’ Star we had a very quick lunch that was made for us. He would ring a bell when it was ready. We were all trained to a bell. I remember when he let me bring the bell, it was my moment. We all sat together and that was the information download for the afternoon of work. That was a 30 minute lunch. We would all eat really fast so we had time for a cigarette.
During Sukkot this year, I built a Sukkah – we would all eat in the Sukkah together. I was one of two Jewish people on the farm and everyone was so excited to eat in the Sukkah. Our farm manager read a story about apples – it was very cute.
– Shani Mink
It is the sad truth that so many people who work on farms end up physically tired at the end of the day, so it can be hard to actually enjoy the food that you grow, and I think it’s really nice if you’re able to do a farm lunch that connects people immediately to the food that they are producing.
At one of the farms I worked on, it was definitely a thing to take lunch at the same time and everybody ate together. It felt fine at first and then I realized, I felt a lot of pressure. No one pressured anyone else outright, but it was definitely the norm. One of the conversations one day was shit talking about a former farmer who had worked there and didn’t have a great experience and started taking lunch by herself. That was deeply criticized. I thought to myself, ‘Ok, everybody has to eat lunch together or people are going to wonder or create a narrative or story.’
There was a lot of shit talking in general at the farm lunch table. There is a lot about that that is cathartic for sure, but there is a lot about it that made me uncomfortable and just felt really unnecessary. It was reminiscent of high school cliques which felt gross. Lots of microaggressions were flying during this time as well. Depending on the day, sometimes I would engage and sometimes I wouldn’t.
There was a farm I worked at where we had an actual farm lunch each week. The farm owner traded a CSA share with this woman who would bring us once a week a fully prepared family meal. That was amazing. This woman got a lot more than a full CSA share. She had kids of her own and it was a big help to her. It ended up being a really great system. I’ve always loved farmer lunches. I’m very in favor of them.
They had two breaks during the day. The first was a coffee break at 10am where the farm owner would provide coffee and tea, fresh baked bread, fresh baked cornbread for gluten free folks, honey, jam, and that coffee break was a paid break. He would use that time as a way to get a status update on how the teams were doing. It was a way to keep communication chains open. The second break was lunch and that was unstructured. Some people had lunch in their cars, some went to the barn, some went to the river and went swimming, some went to the greenhouses. It was nice to have a bit of a mental break and to take space and know there wasn’t any judgment around it.
It was an hour of unpaid lunch which I freaking hated. If I’m not chilling in my house, I would like to be on the clock honestly.
I definitely take lunch. I am a firm believer in rest being the way forward. We actually got an hour paid lunch at my most recent job. I feel very lucky to be able to take an hour. When I’m taking lunch, I make it for me. I don’t use my phone during lunch. I use it as a time to connect. I love taking lunch with my coworkers and learning about them and getting a sense of who they are outside of what we are currently doing.
The farm manager is very capable and able-bodied to meet the demands of the job, and there is pride in the grit, hard work, and ability to ‘go go go’ without drinking water. If the farm manager doesn’t join me for lunch, I feel inclined to shorten my lunch to take work off her plate.
Sometimes there’s this mentality that oftentimes salary workers feel – you are paid to get the work done, and lunch is optional. If we are behind on market day, there’s an additionally weird dynamic where the full time employees (who are adequately paid) are expected to work while the interns (who receive a low stipend from the university program) are expected to take a full/extended lunch. It’s our attempt to rightsize the job to the pay that we cannot increase, but when crew lunches are considered precious, no one feels comfortable taking a proper lunch while someone else just eats and goes.