I’m Somebody Now!

Get this: Brenton has decided he’d like to hire Travis and me. That’s right, we are employed, being trained for positions that we will fill after our internship ends in May. That’s right, we have real jobs again. In farming, too. I know I wrap up my identity too much in my work, but having a legitimate job, getting paid a decent wage, having a place of my own, being self-sufficient, and most importantly feeling like I was contributing to something–lacking all these things made me start to question my self worth. It shouldn’t have. But it did.

How did I get here? Things seem to be coming together, and I have to step back and reflect. When Travis and I first moved to New York, we wanted an introduction to farming. We wanted to see if we could hack it, number one, and if we liked it, number two. We quickly found that yes answered both of those questions, but we were still at a loss for how to progress in organic farming, where it seemed like everyone who would be doing it in the future was already doing it now… in other words, there aren’t a lot of farmers, but there are fewer would-be farming entrepreneurs.

By the time we moved to Austin back in November, we were already burnt out on the aimlessness of interning–the inherent transience, the lack of real engagement with farming, the awkward living arrangements. Young people often enter internships with the expectation to learn about the job, but usually they find themselves doing a lot of mundane tasks with little real training. Although we took on a lot of responsibility in New York, because we could never feel any ownership in the total process of farming, Travis and I often felt that we were doing the farming equivalent of stuffing envelopes.

Not that you can’t learn anything from just being on a farm. And to be fair, after I moved to Austin and began working for Brenton, I was surprised at how much I had learned in New York without even realizing it. But it’s also true I’ve learned more in the past two weeks, training for a real job with real responsibilities, than I did in the all my time as an intern up to this point.

It makes me wonder, is my path replicable? Is interning the best way for young people to get into organic farming? Or is it an only-choice in a field with a tiny pool of colleagues? Could others sort of stumble-jump into fulltime employment on an organic farm like I did? And still, Travis and I aspire not only to work on an organic farm, but to own one of our own, and that remains a giant question mark.

Brenton and I figured it out one day: if his farm is 70 acres, and there are about a million people in Austin, that means it would take over 200 farms of the same size to feed the entire city. So, the need is there, and in a city like Austin, so is the demand. But the question is, who will supply it? And how?

Organizations like the Crop Mob (thanks, Esther) I think are less an idealistic excursion or an attempt to reconnect with nature, and more a testament to how haphazard and makeshift are the paths of people who are genuinely interested in growing food.

But back to the point, Travis and I are gainfully employed, we live in a great apartment in a great city, and we are doing something we really enjoy. It’s been a long, uneven road, toward making a career of organic farming, and we’re certainly not near the end of it, but it’s good to at least see that we are making progress.

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