“I’m definitely a nurturer. I love being outside.”
Farmer. Teacher. Maker of delicious ice creams.
Field Manager at Field Day Family Farm
What led you to farming?
Looking at it in terms of work itself, I’m someone who has always liked to work with my hands. I’m definitely a nurturer. I love being outside. So all of that makes the work very fitting for me. It’s physical work, but it’s also thoughtful work. It’s work that makes sense to me as a profession because I grew up in a place where there were lots of farmers. So it didn’t seem as out of the ordinary to me as it may to other people in my generation.
You grew up in northern New York?
Yeah, lots of dairy farms. I don’t think I went to college with a lot of people who thought, “Yeah, I’d like to be a farmer.” I went to a small liberal arts school where people became lawyers and bankers and whatnot. So I’m kind of an oddball. But it makes sense to me because I grew up around so many farmers.
I also had a really cool professor in college who had a really awesome senior seminar topic called “The Politics of Place” and let us take it wherever we wanted to. Food had always been a big thing in my life. I’ve always been drawn to good food. And since I grew up in a place with a lot of farms, I went towards agriculture and how that helps us relate to place.
In doing lots of things in between then and when I started working at the farm, it had always been in the back of my head that I’d done all of this academic work – maybe I should get some hands-on experience. That’s when I found that the work agreed with me.
You spent some time in Vermont at a farm that taught kids. Could you tell me a bit about that?
It was a year-round educational farm. I worked there for a summer. The kids were either there for four to eight weeks at a time. It was a Quaker camp. It was when I started thinking about wanting to teach. But it was right after college, so I had just finished this thesis on community-supported agriculture. I wanted to work on a farm, but I was also thinking about teaching. It was a good combo for me because I was working with kids and getting to do some small-scale farming… They were pretty awesome kids.
Does the Food Literacy Project do things that intensively?
They do such a range of age groups. Some groups come out to the farm once. Some groups come out repeatedly throughout the school year. There are also some more intensive programs with older students. This year we gave them one of our fields. It’s about an acre. There’s going to be I think 15 teenagers applying to this program. They’re going to grow food for a Fresh Stop. So that’s a more real experience for those kids to have an ongoing relationship with a piece of land and farming than it is to just come out, visit, taste some cool stuff, and see us working. These teens are going to work alongside us.
I think a lot about the differences between generations. It seems like, now, there’s all of this information that’s lost.
It’s not lost. It’s still out there. You just have to have enough people to grab onto it and share it. That’s happening.
What kind of initiatives would you like to see to bring that knowledge back to more people?
The Food Literacy Project definitely does that. Kids come out and taste food. They cook food. Hopefully they go home with a seed of wanting to do those things.
I think, in terms of adults, farmers’ markets in Louisville are clearly cool places to be. You’re around more food that was grown in your neighborhood. If you’re buying food that’s that fresh, you’re going to be excited to cook it, I think.
Being more frugal could also bring more people back. More of us are in a position where we need to do that.
A lot of people have a mentality that won’t let them choose higher-quality products when they can get similar low-quality products at a lower cost.
When you come buy a tomato at the farmers’ market, and you buy it directly from the person who grew it, you’re paying for the cost of that tomato. When you go to Kroger and buy a tomato, there are so many external costs that aren’t factored in to that cheap price. Someone is paying for that in the world. Or the earth is paying for it and we’re going to pay for it later with poor health. The people growing those tomatoes in Florida are not getting paid fairly…And the health costs that you’re going to face down the road because there’s a bunch of pesticides pumped into those tomatoes – who knows? The external costs aren’t on the price of that tomato.
When you buy something that was grown five miles away and you can talk to the person who grew it about what went into growing it, you come visit the farm, you can volunteer on the farm to see what went into growing that food – when you have those things, you know that what you’re paying is what it costs to grow that item. And you know you’re supporting people in your community. Maybe you’re sending kids to school in that community and helping teachers in that community. You know, all of that matters.
It makes me think that there’s more outreach to do. There’s more education that needs to happen. The location of [farmers’] markets is narrow. If you want to reach a wider population, you have to spread out and encourage people to shop at them. It’s an incredibly complicated issue that people have been thinking about for a while in this town: how to spread the healthy, local food.
How well have those efforts worked?
I’m not sure I know enough to really answer that. I know that there’s a people’s garden in the West End. It’s been going for a couple seasons now. I know that the kids coming out to the farm this summer are going to sell at a Fresh Stop in an underserved neighborhood. There’s stuff happening.
I would rather see food used than go to waste. I think when you’re building those relationships with organizations that can use the food – eventually if people figure out how to use a box of kale that didn’t sell, if they can use that at a soup kitchen or whatever, then you’re laying the groundwork.
Eventually, maybe a situation comes about where there’s a larger volume needed at a soup kitchen and payment can exchange hands. That way, the people who grew the food are compensated. But you have to start somewhere. If it starts with gleaning programs where people take small amounts and figure out how to use it in a place, then maybe there becomes more demand and a financial agreement happens.
I’m not in the position to start making those deals. From my position, I would rather have someone start to figure out how to use items at the market that would otherwise go to waste.
What’s your favorite thing about farming?
I don’t like to pick favorites. Every day is different. That is something that I love about the work I do. Every day is different because conditions are always different. Even if I wheel hoe two days in a row, I’m doing it in two beds under two different conditions. It could suck one day and be awesome the next day. I know that I have that to look forward to. It’s just different. And because one day is never the same as the next, I know that I’m always going to learn something.
Have you learned a lot since you started working at Field Day Family Farm?
I’ve learned a ton and I learn more every day. I’m in a role now where I get to help teach apprentices. And that helps my skills when I’m showing someone else and figuring out new ways to do things with new teammates. You’re always slightly tweaking things. We joke about being innovators at the farm.
Every day is different, but you’re doing the same thing a lot. Let’s figure out how to have more fun doing this or let’s figure out how to have another set of hands in this process. It’s fun. It’s great.
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